MANITOULIN—The fishing gods must have smiled down on the first-ever Manitoulin Ice Showdown, granting anglers weather and fishing that will be hard to beat. Co-organizers, the Wiikwemkoong Ice Fishing Derby (through Wikwemikong Tourism) and The Manitoulin Expositor couldn’t be happier either as the inaugural event was, by all accounts, a successful one. Over 150 fish were weighed at both sites, Manitowaning Bay and Lake Manitou, with anglers jockeying for position until the last few minutes of the derby.
At the derby social held Sunday afternoon at Wikwemikong High School, Wiikwemkoong councillor Marcia Trudeau-Bomberry brought greetings on behalf of chief and council and noted the new partnership with The Expositor.
“I hope everyone had a great time fishing with friends and family,” Councillor Trudeau-Bomberry told the crowd of upwards of 150 gathered in the high school cafeteria.
“Wow! What a weekend,” said an enthusiastic Luke Wassegijig, manager at Wikwemikong Tourism. “There were tons of fish caught.”
When asked how the crowd liked the new two-lake format, cheers, hoots and clapping erupted from the fishermen. The addition of Lake Manitou appeared to be well-received.
Forty fish were weighed on Manitowaning Bay, a record for the Wiikwemkoong Ice Fishing Derby, and 115 on Lake Manitou.
“This event put bums in beds, gas in cars and people in restaurants,” Mr. Wassegijig added. “We’re making this Manitoulin’s premier winter event, bringing much-needed tourism dollars to Manitoulin during the winter season.”
Mr. Wassegijig said when the idea was born to create a new ‘super derby,’ The Expositor was immediately thought of as a partner due to its experience with the popular Salmon Classic tournament. This newspaper jumped on board, recognizing right away the potential and merit of just such an event to enhance winter tourism.
Mr. Wassegijig also acknowledged the hard work of his staff and Giselle Aiabens, who worked tirelessly behind the scenes on the Manitoulin Ice Showdown to make it a seamless success.
Dave Patterson, representing The Expositor, thanked Mr. Wassegijig and Wikwemikong Tourism for their hospitality and inviting the newspaper into the fold. For its part, The Expositor was responsible for the Lake Manitou portion of the derby, running the check-in and weigh-in stations while Wikwemikong Tourism ran the Manitowaning Bay side of things.
Then came the moment everyone was waiting for: the handing out of the prizes.
On Lake Manitou, the top 10 winners are as follows: First, Rachel Stoddart with a 9.83 lb ling weighed in at Sandfield at 11:34 am on Sunday; second, Joseph Anselmo with a 9.4 lb ling weighed in at Holiday Haven Road at 9:04 am on Sunday; third, Cody Leeson with a 9.33 lb ling weighed in at Sandfield at 1:32 pm on Saturday; fourth, Robert James with an 8.85 lb lake trout weighed in at Sandfield at 9:21 am on Sunday; fifth, Melanie Holmes with an 8.71 lb lake trout weighed in at Holiday Haven Road at 8:43 am on Saturday; sixth, Tanya Connell with an 8.7 lb lake trout weighed in at Scotch Line Road at 9:24 am Saturday; seventh, Nick Holmes with an 8.06 lb lake trout weighed in at Holiday Haven Road at 12:18 pm on Sunday; eighth, Jeff Bailey with an 8.03 lb lake trout weighed in at Scotch Line Road at 8:32 am on Saturday; ninth, Rob Sheppard with an 8 lb lake trout weighed in at Scotch Line Road at 11:16 am on Sunday; and tenth, Andrew Graham with a 7.97 lb lake trout weighed in at Sandfield at 10:45 am on Sunday.
The target weight for Lake Manitou, 6.4 lbs, was announced at the derby’s start. By 9:30 am Cody Hunter brought a lake trout in for weighing to Sandfield, gaining him a cool $5,000 for hitting that weight right to the decimal point.
On Manitowaning Bay, the top 10 winners are: First, Joshua Bisson with 11.6 lb rainbow trout weighed in at Bayside Resort at 8:15 am on Saturday; second, Georgina Recollet with 9.8 lb pike weighed in at Buzwah Fisheries at 10:40 am Saturday; third, Brody Burns with 9.33 lb rainbow trout weighed in at Manitowaning Marina at 3:32 pm on Saturday; fourth, Mike Lamb with 8.07 lb rainbow trout weighed in at Buzwah Fisheries at 9 am on Sunday; fifth, Ron Labre with 7.18 lb rainbow trout weighed in at Buzwah Fisheries at 10:02 am on Sunday; sixth, Bret Varey with 5.99 lb rainbow trout weighed in at Buzwah Fisheries at 8:42 am on Saturday; seventh, Terry Kay with a 5.94 lb rainbow trout weighed in at Buzwah Fisheries at 11:14 am on Saturday; eighth, Galen Trudeau of 26 Adventures with a 5.83 lb rainbow trout weighed in at Buzwah Fisheries at 10:37 am on Saturday; ninth, John Trainer with a 5.83 lb rainbow trout weighed in at Buzwah Fisheries at 10:34 am on Sunday; and tenth, Lukus Arnold with a 5.55 lb rainbow trout weighed in at Manitowaning Marina at 3:52 pm on Saturday.
Not only did Mr. Bisson have the first Manitowaning Bay fish of the derby, he also claimed the top prize and the top trout for both lakes, earning him the Pimp’d Hut which came overflowing with goodies to the tune of $10,000 in amazing prizes, from recliners, to beer to fishing gear.
One minute after Mr. Bisson’s catch, Galen Trudeau, also of Wiikwemkoong, caught a tagged fish, a rainbow trout weighing in at 2.86 lbs. The fish may have been small but it packed a mighty punch, earning Mr. Trudeau $5,000 in cash.
Other prize winners were Tom Cranston with his early bird draw win of $1,000 and Wiikwemkoong’s Jeanette Pitawanakwat and her $10,000 registration draw prize.
Talk among the anglers was positive.
“I’m really glad they changed the format,” said one angler. “Having it over two days makes it worth my while to come here from North Bay.”
Cody Leeson of Little Current, the third-place winner for Lake Manitou, was fishing at Sandfield, his first time ice fishing on the lake. Mr. Leeson admitted that his luck had been poor so far this year. The biggest fish he’d managed to haul in to date was a four-inch perch.
While minding the Sandfield weigh-in station, the volunteers noticed a figure in the distance running as fast as he could toward shore. As he approached they saw he was handling a fish and holding his snowpants to keep them from falling down, all while making his mad dash.
“It was quite the sight,” laughed Mr. Patterson, who helped Mr. Leeson weigh in his one and only catch of the derby, a 9.33 lb ling that kept him in top spot until Sunday morning.
Interesting catches also brought a speckled trout into the Sandfield weigh station, a testament to the hard work of Manitoulin Streams and the children of Manitoulin and their stocking efforts.
On Manitowaning Bay on Sunday, an angler brought in a salamander to be weighed. Derby officials politely turned him down.
“He was good natured about it,” Ms. Aiabens noted.
Organizers will convene in the coming weeks to go through the derby statistics. Just over 400 tickets were sold.
“Like any new event, there will be growing pains,” Mr. Wassegijig told The Expositor. “But it can only go up from here.”