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Fishers competed for $125,000 in prizes for pike and walleye

BY Ben Powless Aug 30, 2021

Nearly 300 people participated in the 25th Waswanipi Old Post Fishing Derby this year August 6-8, taking home over $125,000 in cash prizes. 

The two biggest prize categories were in the walleye and pike categories, with prizes ranging from $500 to $50,000 in the walleye category and $500 to $20,000 in the pike category. Paul Salt won the biggest walleye of the derby, weighing 10.14 pounds, earning him a $10,000 prize. However, Darren Snowboy earned the most points for total walleye caught, bringing home the $50,000 prize. In the pike category, LilyAnna Icebound won the most points, garnering the $20,000 prize. 

Derby organizer Steven Blacksmith, Waswanipi’s Natural Resources Director, said that the funds came from the $300 inscription fees as well as from sponsors that included the Cree Nation of Waswanipi, Waswanipi Natural Resources, and private companies such as Waswanipi Mishtuk Corporation and Rona. 

Planning for this event was made easier by major investments in infrastructure, including three weigh-stations, bathrooms, and a large new parking lot. 

However, there were some challenges this year, including heavy rainfall on the first day. Despite the rain, Blacksmith noted that water levels are low this year, causing some boaters to hit rocks and sandbars, with one person having to be towed. 

“First time I’ve seen it like this in a long time,” Blacksmith said. “Lots of people say it’s due to climate change.” Blacksmith said big boats were unable to use one of the parking lots because the water level was so low, and even at the other parking lot, seven boats still got stuck.

The fishing derby is catch-and-release, in accordance with the community’s commitment to the environment and efforts to preserve natural resources. 

Speaking at the awards ceremony August 9, Waswanipi Deputy Chief Ronnie Ottereyes shared a story of a distressed motorist. 

“My partners and I were jigging and there was this guy who comes in a small boat… and all of a sudden cuts, and hits that sandbar and gets stuck. He was looking around and had a few choice words I won’t repeat,” Ottereyes said with a chuckle. 

“He got out, the water was up to his ankles, he gets his boat out and takes off. A couple of hours he comes back. I ask him how he did. He said, ‘I hit a couple more sandbars out there, that was the first time I ever walked on water.’” 

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Ben Powless is a Kanien'kehá:ka and Anishnabek writer and photographer, currently living in Ottawa. He has a degree in Human Rights, Indigenous and Environmental Studies from Carleton University.