Live leaderboard gives new competitive element

MANITOULIN – This year’s Manitoulin Ice Showdown was the biggest and best event yet with a grand total of 730 people driving hundreds of thousands of kilometres combined to attend the ice fishing derby organized by The Manitoulin Expositor and Wikwemikong Tourism, this year hosted by special guest Bob Izumi.

“The weekend was fantastic. I was up early both days and the traffic was unbelievable. There were people waiting at the check-in stations from 6:30 am onwards with excitement in the air,” said Manitoulin Ice Showdown co-organizer Dave Patterson of The Manitoulin Expositor.

“We broke records. Today we have over 700 people—that’s simply the best year ever. Our past best was 525,” said event co-organizer Luke Wassegijig of Wikwemikong Tourism.

The weather was nearly perfect for a weekend of on-ice fishing, with the only drawback being the warm temperatures creating slushy conditions in parts of the fishing area. Sunny skies and moderate wind ensured people were as comfortable as they could be while searching for the big ones. Some 331 people came from Manitoulin and 399 others came from away for the derby.

Mr. Izumi and his crew were out for five days before and during the event gathering footage for a forthcoming episode of Bob Izumi’s Real Fishing Show. They worked alongside Islander Neil Debassige who was also shooting for his own show on Sportsman Channel Canada, Fuel The Fire TV.

On Saturday afternoon, Chef Joe Shawana prepared rainbow trout at Bayside Resort on an open fire for a traditional food ‘Wild Game Kitchen’ segment on Mr. Debassige’s show.

A group from Little Current and Parry Sound fished not far from the Sandfield shore. photo by Warren Schlote

“He cooked it up with smoked cedar, leeks, wild rice, sweet potatoes and sumac,” said Mr. Debassige, adding that the chef also cooked the fish’s liver which increases the used parts of the animal.

It was a memorable weekend for Kalem Antoine, who came to the competition with a group from Zhiibaahaasing First Nation. He pulled in a three-pound, two-ounce rainbow trout, the very first fish he has ever caught through the ice.

“You’ve got to work a lot harder for it (compared to summer fishing) but it’s so worth it in the long run, man,” said the visibly excited Kalem. “It was on my bucket list!”

Mr. Patterson said it was a favourite moment of the event for him as well.

“It made the whole weekend worth it for me; he was just vibrating,” he said. 

Unfortunately, Kalem was supposed to do an interview with Mr. Izumi for his show but the 17-year-old ended up falling asleep on his lawn chair and missed his chance.

At a Saturday evening meet-and-greet event with the Izumi crew, the first winners of the event were announced: the Trail Side Sports-sponsored Polaris Voyageur 550 went to Simon Hutchings, while Daniel Methe, Gwen McLeod and Miro Radman each received signed rod and reels from Mr. Izumi.

The Sunday closing ceremonies and awards presentation for the Manitoulin Ice Showdown were one of the biggest yet.

Manitoulin Ice Showdown first-timer Eddy Sagle fishes in the shadow of the Norisle on Manitowaning Bay. photo by Warren Schlote

A September conversation with Wayne Izumi sparked the creation of the Fishing Manitoulin Destination Filming Partnership comprised of Explore Manitoulin, Indigenous Tourism Association of Canada, Indigenous Tourism Ontario, Northeastern Ontario Tourism, the Wiikwemkoong Anglers’ Club and Wikwemikong Tourism. These partners all chipped in to bring Mr. Izumi to Manitoulin for five days and to act as derby host. They also co-ordinated the shared filming with Mr. Debassige and Mr. Izumi.

Mr. Izumi thanked Mr. Wassegijig for running “a phenomenal tournament,” noting that he’s never seen an ice fishing event of this calibre since he began fishing.

“I said to my wife, ‘I love this place. The people really make this place. I could live up here.’ You just need a few more bass tournaments,” he chuckled. (This was the second time Mr. Izumi publicly noted his dreams of Island property and this newspaper made sure he had a copy of the most recent edition of its real estate section. “I already read them!” Mr. Izumi laughed, noting that brother Wayne had spent a trip from Little Current to Manitowaning reading the listings aloud.)

Huts and snowmobile tracks dot the landscape of Manitowaning Bay during the Manitoulin Ice Showdown. photo by Scott Flamand

Mr. Izumi then introduced Mr. Debassige, calling him “hardcore” for his abilities to fish in sub-zero temps wearing only a hoodie. Mr. Debassige thanked Mr. Izumi for their time together throughout the course of the week. 

Before getting down to the business of handing out prizes and cash, Mr. Wassegijig honoured the late Moozguy Trudeau, a popular community elder who participated in every one of the Wikwemikong Ice Fishing Derbies until his passing last year.

“He was an elder full of jokes and full of laughter,” Mr. Wassegijg said. “He was always making people laugh,” he added, before calling up Trudeau family members to give them some derby swag.

Mr. Wassegijig said one of the most important parts of this derby is seeing kids out fishing and noted Ethan Flamand, a top-10 contender on the Manitowaning Bay side.

Ethan thanked Mr. Izumi for teaching his dad how to fish through watching episodes of the Real Fishing Show but offered a warning for the famous fisherman—he was gunning for his job.

Katelane Frohlick was all smiles when she weighed in this 9.2 lb lake trout Sunday, a fish that would eventually take top honours on the Manitou side. photo by Alicia McCutcheon

Mr. Patterson handed out the prizes for Lake Manitou, which are as follows: 10th place, James Grigull, 7.86 lb lake trout; 9th place, Nick Holmes, 7.91 lb lake trout; 8th place, Mike Gibbons, 8.01 lb lake trout; 7th place, Matt Eles, 8.13 lb lake trout; 6th place, Cody Hunter, 8.15 lb lake trout; 5th place, Danielle Frescura, 8.29 lb lake trout; 4th place, Steven Rye, 8.36 lb lake trout; 3rd place, Richard Noble, 8.4 lb lake trout; 2nd place, Matt Eles, 8.51 lb lake trout; and 1st place (for the second time!), Katelane Frohlick for her 9.2 lb lake trout caught Sunday.

Jason Buie won the Saturday Lake Manitou target weight with his 5.86 lb lake trout (target weight was 5.85 lbs) while Nick Watkins won the Sunday weight with a 6.03 lb lake trout catch (target weight was 6.02 lbs).

For Manitowaning Bay, the winners are as follows: 10th place, Paxton Holmes, 8.13 lb rainbow; 9th place, Ethan Flamand, 8.38 lb rainbow; 8th place, Michael Duhaime, 9.98 lb rainbow; 7th place, Dave Adamczak, 10.22 lb pike; 6th place, Lyle Gillmar, 10.28 lb rainbow; 5th place, Dene Banger, 10.52 lb rainbow; 4th place, Richard Phillips, 11.54 lb rainbow; 3rd place, Noah Souliere-Lamb, 12.04 lb rainbow; 2nd place, Roger Cooper, 12.86 lb rainbow; and 1st place, Ken Hartley, 13.08 lb rainbow caught in front of the Roller Mills in 10 feet of water.

The top three Lake Manitou winners—Richard Noble, third, Matt Eles, second, and Katelane Frohlick first—pose for a photo during the awards presentations Sunday with Neil Debassige of Fuel the Fire TV, Bob Izumi, Luke Wassegijig of Wikwemikong Tourism and Dave Patterson of The Manitoulin Expositor. photo by Alicia McCutcheon

Greg Gilson caught the Saturday tagged fish at 1:08 pm while Travis Assiniwe caught the tagged fish on day two at 8:23 am on Sunday.

In the Out-Fish Bob Izumi prize, the weight to beat was 7.7 lb which, Mr. Wassegijig joked, was easy to do. All those anglers who brought fish in above that weight were entered into a random draw: Danielle Frescura and Ethan Flamand took home this great honour.

The grand finale, the winner of the Pimp’d Hut with over $7,000 in prizes for the top combined weight over the weekend, was won by Richard Noble of Gore Bay. Mr. Noble caught four lake trout weighing a total of 22.66 lbs. In an interesting twist, Mr. Noble told the audience that this had been his first time fishing on Lake Manitou, and fishing for lake trout.

For Manitowaning Bay, the top three winners—Noah Souliere-Lamb, third, Roger Cooper, second, and Ken Hartley, first—pose with Neil Debassige of Fuel the Fire TV, Bob Izumi, Luke Wassegijig of Wikwemikong Tourism and Dave Patterson of The Manitoulin Expositor. photo by Alicia McCutcheon

“I know the economic impact of this ice fishing derby was felt by many Island operators; I noticed as I drove past how many cars were in the parking lots at the hotels and motels,” said Mr. Patterson.

The Manitoulin Ice Showdown started in 2009 as the Wikwemikong Ice Fishing Derby. In 2018, Wikwemikong Tourism partnered with this newspaper to expand the event to two days and add Lake Manitou to the fishing spaces in addition to Manitowaning Bay.