They come from far and wide — from places as far north as Yukon and as far south as Florida – all for the chance to fish in the world-renowned Bay of Quinte waters in a fun, community-driven event.
The Kiwanis Walleye World Fishing Derby typically attracts around 5,000 anglers ever year on the opening weekend of the spring walleye season.
The 2014 edition of the derby takes place on Saturday, May 3 and Sunday, May 4 along waters that the Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources considers Region 20 – an area that includes the Bay of Quinte and pretty much all waterways that border Prince Edward County. The event is headquartered at Centennial Park in Quinte West, but weighing stations are also situated in Napanee, Belleville, Picton and Brighton. Throughout the weekend, boaters are expected to be found throughout the region, casting their rods in hopes of catching a “trophy” walleye fish that the Bay of Quinte is known for, or a large pike.
“We’re definitely the largest amateur freshwater event of our kind,” said Remco de Gooyer, chair of the event and a member of the Kiwanis Club of Trenton.
As usual plenty of prizes will be up for grabs. The first prize in both the walleye and pike divisions will be a boat and trailer motor supplied by North Country Marine. Organizers expect to have about $250,000 worth in prizes to give out.
Remco said the derby has a long history in the Quinte West community and prides itself on being family-oriented, environmentally responsible and a great fundraiser. The event has taken place for more than 30 years and has raised funds for numerous causes over that time, most of them related to youth, in accordance with Kiwanis’s mandate.
Beneficiaries of Kiwanis’s ongoing fundraising commitments – of which the derby is a large one – have included the Quinte West Minor Hockey association, the Quinte West Minor Soccer Club and the Afghanistan Repatriation Memorial fundraising drive, just to name a few.
Changes to the event are also being made to ensure it attracts more kids. While there was traditionally a separate fee for adults and juniors, the 2014 edition will have a single fee of $35 which will include one adult and one junior ( a child 12 or under). This, organizers hope, will lead to more boats that include the entire family, not just dad.
Tournament organizers also stress the importance of protecting the fish, as the event is a catch-and-release derby. Once a fish is brought to a weigh-in station it becomes the property of the derby. The fish is placed in a tank and eventually released.
Fish that appear to be stressed are disqualified, Remco said, explaining that rule is in place to discourage cheating. In the past, organizers have seen fish that have had ice cubes or weights shoved into them by participants who were too eager to win. This move is not only dishonest, but terribly unhealthy for the fish.
The event typically results in the catching of big fish, even without such scandalous moves. The winning walleye in 2013 weighed in at 11.92 pounds. The winning pike was 12.4 pounds.
Participants will be able to track the leaders as the derby progresses. Each time a fish is weighed, the name of the angler who caught it and the fish’s weight will be put into a database that can be seen in real time from the event’s website.
While Remco is proud of how tech savvy the derby has become, he also encourages participants to not get too caught up in the technology and just enjoy a weekend on the water.
He believes the best thing about fishing is it provides a chance for family and friends to sit and talk in a peaceful place, away from the stresses of day-to-day life.
“It’s a chance for them to put down the controller, the remote, the iPad, the keyboard, put both hands on the fishing rod and focus on that,” he said. “It’s a waiting game, that’s what fishing is,” he said.
For more information on the derby, including registration information, please visit kiwaniswalleyeworld.com