Welcome to Week XLI of 'Fishing Parkland Shorelines'. Like most of us I am a novice fisherman, loving to fish, but far from an expert. In the following weeks I'll attempt to give those anglers who love to fish but just don't have access a boat a look at some of the options in the Yorkton area where you can fish from shore, and hopefully catch some fish.
I have never entered a fishing derby before, but it never hurts to try new things, even at my age, so I figured why not and put down the fifty bucks for an early bird ticket in the Lake of the Prairies Ice Fishing Derby.
And then the days and weeks passed.
There were days among those when I was rather excited by the prospect of the derby.
Then as the Saturday grew closer I began to analyze the event a bit more, and realized it was pretty much like buying a lottery ticket and crossing your fingers that your number comes up for the $10,000 prize for the longest fish.
When you ice fish at any time you have a pretty small window into which a fish must be attracted.
It's an eight-to-10 inch hole in the ice and you drop a hook.
It's a far cry from being on a boat where you can troll an area, have no luck, so you crank the throttle and head to another area of the lake.
Even shore fishing you can fan cast, covering a sort of four-to-eight pattern on a clock, casting every few degrees around the circle. On a 75-foot cast you can cover a fair amount of water.
But ice fishing, it's the one small hole.
Then I got to thinking about the derby now in its fourth year, and organized by the Asessippi Parkland Tourism.
Money raised goes to Tourism Promotion of the area funding things like trade shows, visitor guide, advertising, and similar things. While not as appealing as if they went to fish habitat, it's still a reasonable cause.
Last year there were some 660 fishermen fishing holes, each located at 25-foot intervals. I started to envision a fish in the lake. It's lazily swimming along in the icy depths, rather lethargic as fish are in cold water. The buzzer ticks to 11 a.m. and suddenly nearly 700 hooks plop into the water over a grid area the size of two or three football fields.
The fish either sees a smorgasbord in the water, or wonders where all the fake looking morsels came from, and they decide to decline the offerings completely.
In my mind it really must be a pretty surreal vision for a pike as the hooks all hit the water -- I say pike because in a derby where the longest fish wins, you want a pike.
The vision was one which dampened some of my initial enthusiasm because I was realizing luck was going to be a huge part of the day.
And then the weekend was only a couple of days away, and a few cold bugs had decided to invade my body, you know the symptoms, burning eyes, swollen nasal passages, heavy chest. On a scale of one-to-10 I felt simply lousy.
But Saturday morning I was still up before the alarm clock, which considering it was set for 6:45 is pretty amazing since I hate early mornings with a passion.
The first thing, after pouring milk over some Cheerios to soak because I like my cereal soggy, I punched up the weather page on the Yorkton This Week website. It was a good one, a high of -2C, and diminishing wind. For late February I figured that was about as good as you could hope for if you were heading to ice fish without the comfort of an ice shack.
My son arrives, we pack our gear into his shiny new pick-up, and off we go.
We get to the lake, and thanks to the early bird tickets, we were smoothly through the registration line and out on the ice, where we could pick our hole. It felt a bit like the old carnival game where you have a hammer and you are trying to hit the gopher as it pops up. In this case we were trying to guess the hole the fish would pop up.
Now I might as well cut to the chase as they say, and admit neither myself, or Adam caught a fish, so I will state right now, to the best of my memory, my son picked the holes, although my cold might have clouded that memory just bit.
Now not catching, while disappointing, was hardly a shock. This year there were just short of 700 anglers, and only 100 fish, give, or take one, or, two, came up through the holes. That means my son, and I were definitely in the majority going fish-less. In fact, we estimated no one within a 100-feet of us caught a fish, so I guess we were in a dead zone in terms of fish.
There were some nice fish caught though. About half an hour into the derby a 66-centimetre pike came out, and was the early leader.
About an hour in an 87.5 centimetre pike was announced, caught by Roger Geres of Langenburg.
After the first hour the fishing slowed, not that was ever exactly speeding for me.
But the weather was beautiful. In spite of my cold I felt good out on the ice. I had layered for the chill, had added some extra in-soles and new socks so my feet stayed toasty, so all was well. In spite of no fish, it was hard to envision a better way to spend a Saturday afternoon.
As the day wore on though, and talk of the Toronto Blue Jays, who were playing in their spring season opener waned, amid our hopes for a playoff spot come October, we got to talking about the fish that never bit.
There was the realization that if you hooked a fish that really bent your rod there would be way more pressure to land it smoothly because it might come with a $10,000 cheque tied to its tail.
Not far away from where we were fishing there was a fish hooked that had the short ice rod humped over big time, but the fish never got up the hole. I can only imagine the twist in the gut knowing a big pay fish might just have gotten the better of you.
It is always hard on a fisherman to lose a big fish, but with prizes on the line it adds pressure.
For me fishing is about escaping and relaxing, and Saturday was relaxing, but maybe because there was no big fish putting a bunch of pressure on me to land it.
So would I go into a derby again?
Good question, and one I'll reserve an answer for at some point in the future. I wonder whether it would have been the day it was if it was -20C and windy? Or, if I had caught a prize winner? The first would likely have been a total turn off, the latter might have turned me into an avid derbyist, after all there is one coming up at Theodore Dam in March.
Hmmmm ... I guess time will tell.
Oh, and there is a part two to this tale, but you'll have to wait until next week to read about one of the truly great days of fishing I have ever had.