Kevin Ferris proudly displays an over 10 pound rainbow he caught on Manitowaning Bay.

Lots of ice, Bob Izumi coming

MANITOULIN – Following months of waiting, hard water anglers are oiling reels, changing lines and dreaming of what might be. Will they break their personal best lake trout? Will a 20-pound rainbow smash their carefully formed ball of Power Bait? Just three short days and they will have the answer.

The Manitoulin Ice Showdown, February 22 to 23, and the over $50,000 in prizes has created a stir on the Island that has not been felt by anglers for several winters. 

The fishing has been, in one word, phenomenal. Fifteen-pound rainbow trout abound in Manitowaning Bay. Day after day a seemingly endless stream of pictures posted to social media cements the fact that the big ‘bows are hungry. 

Kevin Ferris and girlfriend Alicia Steinke are Manitowaning Bay regulars. You might have seen Mr. Ferris’s picture on the Fish Manitoulin Facebook page recently after he landed a beautiful monster rainbow.

“It was our first time out this year,” stated Mr. Ferris “We headed out at Buzwah Park, the ice was great, we had at least 12 inches.”

On this day, the couple were fishing in under 15 feet of water when the big rainbow struck.

“It was pretty cool, we saw the fish on the graph and watched as he hammered the line,” said Mr. Ferris. “I fought the rainbow for nearly five minutes before I finally got him on the ice. He was sure a nice fish.”

Following a few photos, Mr. Ferris let the big fellow swim away for another fisherman to catch, hopefully next weekend.

“We caught two other smaller eater-sized bows that we kept for a few meals,” beamed Mr. Ferris.

The fishing couple plans on attending this year’s Manitoulin Ice Showdown once again.

“We will spend one day on both lakes, last year we caught some nice lakers on Manitou,” said Mr. Ferris.

Lake Manitou, a lake trout mecca for decades, has been on fire. Anglers are having no trouble coaxing the sometimes finicky trout to the top of the ice. But Manitou had a ‘stop the presses’ moment two weekends ago when Phil Hembruff had the surprise of a lifetime. A world-class 15.75-pound walleye smashed his bait while he was in search of a laker spot for this weekend’s derby.

Mr. Hembruff wrote an email to Fish Manitoulin regarding his trophy catch.

“Yeah, I was pretty surprised. I was exploring a few spots for lakers for the upcoming derby,” he said. 

“I do a lot of walleye fishing and have caught some 12 pounders at places like Bay of Quinte and Lake Erie in boat season, and I had caught a 10-pounder through the ice before, on Wabagishik (Vermillion R.), but this was a real hog.”

“I had a hard time getting its head turned into the hole,” Mr. Hembruff continued. “It came off and I had to quickly dip my arm elbow-deep in the water to grab it before it swam off; it still makes me laugh.”

After a quick picture of the fish, the trophy walleye was released back into the depths of Lake Manitou.

Mr. Hembruff’s monster walleye has created quite the stir among the Lake Manitou fishing faithful with several anglers heading out this past weekend looking for that secret walleye location.

Bob and Wayne Izumi, Canadian fishing royalty, will be in attendance this year, and the race is on to ‘Out-fish Bob.’ Just think of the bragging rights, not to mention the prize pack you could win. Picture this: you are sitting around the campfire on a warm July evening. Your fishing buddy just caught a five-pound Lake Mindemoya walleye hours earlier, and you only caught a cold. He is not letting you forget the smell of skunk when you reach into your back pocket and pull out the well placed, “Well, I did out-fish Bob Izumi.” There is no coming back from that. That is game, set and match!

New to the Ice Showdown this year is the introduction of the live leaderboard. As soon as a fish is weighed in at any of the derby weigh-in stations, the angler’s name, species caught and weight will be immediately found online at This will help anglers determine whether a fish is worth keeping or not and encourages catch-and-release.

On the off-chance you have not purchased your ticket, you still have time. They are available online at or a weigh station on Lake Manitou and Manitowaning Bay the Saturday morning of the derby. Please see the website for a list of all weigh-in stations for both bodies of water by clicking on the ‘MIS rules’ dropdown tab then clicking on ‘lakes.’

Fishing kicks off on Saturday morning with check-in stations opening at 7 am, and fishing starting at 8 am.

A meet and greet with the Izumi brothers will be held on Saturday night at the Manitoulin Hotel and Conference Centre, kicking off at 7 pm and hosted by the Manitoulin Brewing Company. If you cannot make it Saturday night, they will also be at the final awards ceremony held at Wasse Abin High School in Wiikwemkoong. The prize presentations will commence at 2 pm.

With bragging rights and tens of thousands of dollars in cash and prizes at stake, this year’s Manitoulin Ice Showdown is shaping up to be one for the ages. See you on the hard water!