WIKWEMIKONG—The first face you see entering the Bayside Resort grounds in Wikwemikong on your way to the 6th Annual Wikwemikong Ice Fishing Derby is the broad friendly smile of Daniel Mandamin, one of the host of volunteers and workers who have been up at 6 am for days preparing the site for the more than 500 people milling about on the ice—426 of whom are patiently jigging lines in one of the 500 holes, hoping their ticket will bring them one of the major prizes up for grabs on this crisp sunny Saturday morning.
For Jessica Wilkin of Little Current, the dream came true as her eight pound five ounce rainbow trout sets a record for largest fish caught in the derby and wins her the grand prize of a 2014 Polaris Sportsman 400 ATV.
In an interesting aside, Ms. Wilkin had proclaimed to her friends the evening before that she would win the ATV at the Wikwemikong derby, and her premonitions, much to her friends’ delight, came true.
Barry Peltier wasn’t that far behind though, he pulled in the second largest fish (three pounds two ounces) for not only the $2,000 second place cheque, but his tagged fish secured the coveted ‘Pimped Hut’ kit bringing his catch to more than a cool $5,000.
The third prize of $1,000 was caught by Holly Pitawanakwat. Fourth prize of $500 was caught by Derrick Roach. Fifth prize of a 43-inch plasma television was captured by the youngest entrant, Slayden Peltier. The television was almost bigger than the young fisherman himself. Sixth prize of a Dewalt mitre saw went to Jennifer Paibomsai. Seventh prize of an underwater camera was captured by Amber Dowdall. Eighth prize of a collection of Fish Bum apparel was captured by a styling Don Norton of Spring Bay. Ninth prize of a $250 gift certificate was won by Sarah Paibomsai. Tenth prize of a Lucky Strike fishing bundle went to Dustin Peltier.
“We were pretty stoked to see the largest fish ever caught at the derby,” said derby organizer Luke Wassegijig as he opened the awards ceremony. The luncheon of local rainbow trout was supplied by derby sponsors Buzwah Fisheries of Wikwemikong.
Mr. Wassegijig gave special thanks to the many volunteers. “Without you guys this event would not be possible,” he said. Mr. Wassegijig went on to thank the many generous sponsors of the derby before inviting Chief Duke Peltier up to welcome the fisher folk to the event.
“I hope you weren’t too startled when I landed my helicopter,” joked Chief Peltier. A helicopter spent much of the morning circling the bay where the derby was taking place, capturing aerial shots of the site and the Wikwemikong community for two segments of a fishing program being filmed by Canadian Sportfishing Television host Italo Labignan. The chief went on to congratulate the volunteers and members of the Wikwemikong Tourism department for their incredible efforts in putting the event together. “I also want to thank each of you who participated,” said Chief Peltier. “Your participation makes their work a success, please come back again next year, we would love to see you again.”
For his part, Mr. Labignan was effusive in his praise (see the interview with the fishing show host on The Expositor website at manitoulin.ca) of the community and the derby organizers. “I can tell you that Luke hasn’t slept for about three days,” he laughed. The fishing show host also praised the participants, saying how startled he was when he got up in the morning and looked out his window to see people gathering in front of the chalet at Bayside Resort. “You were all so quiet,” he said. The site of the fishing derby itself was left in pristine shape, he added. “No garbage, no mess left behind.” Only the 500 round icing-up holes and thousands of footsteps in the snow were there to show so many people had the best day of the winter on Manitoulin Island.
“You can catch fish in other parts of the world,” said Mr. Labignan, “but there is only one Wikwemikong.”