Anglers from as far away as B.C. flocked to Lake Athapapuskow August 3-4, competing for thousands in prizes at the recent Cranberry Portage Trout Challenge. More than 60 two-person teams participated in this year’s event.
The duo of Barry Anderson and Gord Fidierchuk took home first place and $5,000. Their four best trout over two days totalled over 236 inches. Fidierchuk landed the top fish of the entire competition - and the only master angler - with a 42 inch fish reeled in August 3.
Tiffany Anderson organized the tournament. It was Barry, her husband, who was in the winning boat.
“There’s a lot of local fishermen but I’d say there’s probably a split of about half and half between local teams and teams from out of town,” she said after the competition.
Anderson explained that most participants took the competition seriously.
“It’s pretty competitive - I hate saying that- but it is fairly competitive,” she said.
“I think people take it quite seriously, to the point that sometimes it honestly baffles me.”
The challenge makes an effort to give out prizes not just for landing the biggest fish.
“It was our 30th anniversary, so we had a prize for 30th place, just so people who weren’t catching the big fish had a chance to win something,” Anderson said.
“It’s the people that fish the lake a lot that typically end up [winning]. We’ve been really working hard at trying to disperse prizes outside of that top 11 so that anyone could potentially win something.”
Anglers had a tough day battling the elements August 4. Winds gusted to the point where the challenge was nearly cut short. Any winds over 30 kilometres an hour would force the boats back to shore.
“Sunday was a really tough day,” Anderson said.
“[It was] really, really windy and some elected to come back in early… We came close to reaching the threshold. It fell just short of that on Sunday.”
Anderson said anglers submitted over 250 photos of their catches during the competition for evaluation. Each boat submitted their top fish for each day, with separate measuring backdrops for each day to help prevent cheating.
“We’re looking at upgrading technology for next year,” Anderson said. “It’s been going for 30 years. Back when I started 28 years ago, we were looking at Polaroid pictures… so we try to put lots of checks and balances in for that to people with every picture.”
Anderson’s work through the challenge gives her a good snapshot of the trout population in Lake Athapap every year.
“The population is healthy,” she said.
“A lot of people actually think it’s helping because those fish are getting fed all week when people throw down their bait and their chum.”
The next big fishing derby on the lake will be the Flinty Ice Fishing Derby, held each winter in the northern portion of Lake Athapap near Bakers’ Narrows and Sally’s Beach.