MANITOULIN—The fourth annual Manitoulin Expositor Salmon Classic returns this weekend and runs until late August, allowing all avid and aspiring anglers an attempt at acquiring an astronomical alewife-admiring aquatic animal.
“It’s a fun event, it gets you outside, away from the distractions and doing something you love,” said Manitoulin Expositor Salmon Classic organizer and Expositor production manager Dave Patterson.
This year’s event follows much of the same format as previous years, with some minor changes and a branding makeover. The derby begins on July 27 and runs for four consecutive weeks, ending at noon on August 25. This year, charter boat tickets are available for captains who run charter outfits, which cover all people on charter boats for the duration of the competition. A similar boat ticket extends the same privileges to a private, non-commercial boat.
“We thought that this was a much more amicable way of doing it because there’s a lot of times when people won’t want to buy a ticket just for a few hours’ worth of fishing if they’re going with a friend,” said Mr. Patterson.
All of the weigh-in stations are fully electronic this year and, for the first time ever, fishers and followers alike can follow along with the results in real-time as they are posted to the live leaderboard on the Fish Manitoulin website. There is also a new weekly Instagram competition this year in collaboration with Moxy’s Bait and Tackle in Lively. Users who post pictures of their fish and tag both @MoxysBaitAndTackle and #FishManitoulin will be entered into a weekly draw to win a rod and reel combo.
There are some updates to the rules and regulations, too, and Mr. Patterson encourages everyone to review the rules before the start of the derby to ensure they were fishing within those guidelines. The full regulations can be found on the Fish Manitoulin website.
This year’s $30,000 worth of prizes are just as good as last year’s, a decision made because of the positive feedback Mr. Patterson received after last year.
“We want to thank Jake’s Home Centres in Mindemoya and Little Current for their generous donation again this year. We have a target weight and we’re giving away a Broil King smoker again, valued at over $1,000, for the first fish to hit the target weight, or the closest to the weight,” said Mr. Patterson.
The reason for the named weight instead of the mystery weight of previous years was to avoid people weighing in small fish, less than 10 pounds, in the hopes of winning. The mystery weight will be announced this coming Friday before the start of the derby.
Weigh-in stations for this year’s derby include South Baymouth, Providence Bay, Meldrum Bay, Gore Bay, Manitowaning and Little Current. Instead of a North Shore station, a brand-new weigh-in station is open this year in M’Chigeeng First Nation, conveniently located at Paul’s Esso and General Store at the intersection of Highways 540 and 551.
Tickets have already been flying into the hands of eager anglers and Mr. Patterson said he hopes to have more than 800 boats on the water this year. By the early bird deadline, sales were 40 tickets above last year at that same time. The ultimate goal is to hit 1,000 boats for the derby, which would contribute upwards of $3 million to the local economy, according to Mr. Patterson.
The fishery in the derby area has been rebounding in recent years and Mr. Patterson said his own observations show the derby not harming the fish stocks.
“We know not all the fish are weighed in, but last year we took in under 1,000 salmon. It’s a miniscule drop in the bucket. Every year, I go and watch the creeks and spawning areas at the end of September and early October. The salmon are becoming more and more prevalent in rivers, and that’s largely due to the bait coming back,” he said.
“The fishing has really helped with our sales. The salmon have come back quite strong again this year. There’s lots of alewife and smelt around that they’re feeding on; we’ve already seen fish caught that would have won the derby last year, size-wise,” Mr. Patterson added.
So far, anglers are travelling from as far as Ohio, Quebec, the Chicago area and Alberta to take part in this year’s derby. That all adds up to a considerable stimulus for the Island economy and more people discovering the hidden gem that is Manitoulin Island.
“I need to say thanks to all our sponsors. They make life a lot easier for us and, without them, this derby wouldn’t be possible,” said Mr. Patterson.
Individual tickets cost $65 for adults and $35 for youth aged 14 and under. Non-commercial boat passes cost $400 and charter boat tickets go for $850. Tickets can be purchased at the office of The Manitoulin Expositor in Little Current and online at FishManitoulin.com.