M’CHIGEENG – The Debassige family of M’Chigeeng are avid outdoor aficionados. Neil Debassige is the host of the popular outdoors program Fuel the Fire TV, so it is small wonder that they spent the night before the start of the August Salmon Shootout sleeping on their boat. They did the same thing last year during the Manitoulin Expositor Salmon Classic, but this year things were a little different and it paid off in $1,350 in cold hard cash for 13-year-old Aspen Debassige, who came in third in this year’s Salmon Shootout.
“We ended up on the boat that night, like we did last year,” said Aspen’s mom Diane Debassige. “We started out at midnight and came back to the dock where we had a horrible sleep.”
Last year Aspen slipped out of her clothes and into her jammies for the night. “Last time when we did the morning fish, Aspen took a long time to come out,” said Ms. Debassige. “We asked her ‘why did you take so long?’ and she said ‘I had to get my clothes on’.”
This year was different.
“This time she had her clothes on and when she heard ‘fish on’ she bailed out of bed,” said Ms. Debassige. Aspen barely got out the words out “this thing is…” when the battle truly began. “She must have been on for at least half an hour,” said Ms. Debassige. “I was driving the boat and I could only see the back of her head, but Neil (Aspen’s father) could see her face and he said it was white, white, white.”
Aspen had not had time to eat anything before her epic battle began. Her mother started feeding her a banana to build up her strength. “I was afraid she would pass out,” said Ms. Debassige.
A half an hour later Aspen was hoisting a 20.88-pound Chinook into the boat, good enough to take home third in the Salmon Shootout.
“We framed both the Salmon Shootout and the Manitoulin Expositor Salmon Classic as family-friendly events,” said Dave Patterson, organizer of both events. “We added in a youth entry for the Manitoulin Expositor Salmon Classic and it has worked out very well. We want to encourage people to get out and enjoy the water. It’s something the whole family can do and with this pandemic going on there just aren’t that many things going on that you can do to stay safe and have fun.”
Plans are in the works for a new event next year, Manitoulin’s Top Angler. “We are still working out the details, but it should be a lot of fun for everyone,” said Mr. Patterson.
Stay tuned to the pages of The Manitoulin Expositor or visit fishmanitoulin.com regularly to check in on further developments.