By Steve Hubrecht

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Time to bust out the fishing rod because the Fishing Derby is back. 

The annual ice fishing event has been a staple of the Columbia Valley events calendar for two and a half decades and continues to grow.

This year’s version, set for Saturday, Jan. 27, will be the 24th edition of the competition, and it promises to be the biggest yet.

“This year we are expecting to see 200 people,” said event chair Steve Kuffler. “It’s going to be a great day . . . it’s a great way for families and friends to get together and enjoy a day on the lake.”

The derby is a big event for locals and for those from farther afield as well, and in the past it has attracted participants from Creston to Calgary and everywhere in between.

“It’s particularly fun for kids,” explained Kuffler, noting that every kid who takes part gets a trophy.

The prizes for adults are pretty good too – the person who catches the longest fish during the derby gets $500.

Registration for the derby is on the day of the event, from 8 a.m. until 10 a.m. at the Station Pub. Most of the ice fishers will be found on the northernmost part of Lake Windermere, by the collection of ice fishing huts near the Bayshore Condos lake access. The derby goes from 9 3 p.m. The prize presentations will occur at the Bayshore Condos after the derby wraps up.

The derby is organized by the Kinsmen Club of the Windermere Valley, just like the annual snow golf tournament, which was scheduled for Saturday, Jan. 13, but was cancelled when the polar vortex that arrived in January sent temperatures well below -30 C. Like the snow golf tournament, the ice fishing derby raises money “for the Columbia Valley community’s greatest needs” explained Kuffler.

“It’s unfortunate we couldn’t go ahead with the snow golf tournament, but these things happen,” he said. The club decided not to reschedule the event later in the winter because, as Kuffler noted, even in February conditions in the Columbia Valley can be quite mild — sometimes too mild for a snow golf tournament.

The ice fishing derby, however, is set to go ahead. 

Kuffler and some others came up with the idea of having an ice fishing derby more than two decades ago, in part because they liked ice fishing and were looking for an excuse to do more of it and because they wanted to raise money for a good cause.

“Locals love it and visitors do too. We have people who come from several hours away each year to take part. They come once, they experience it, they love it and they come back,” said Kuffler. “It’s always a lot of fun, and it’s going to be fun again this year.”

Ice fishers may not keep game fish, so most of the prize winning fish in the derby are pike minnows or suckers. 

Derby participants will get a free barbecue lunch from the Station Pub. Tickets for the derby are $35.

For more information call Kuffler at 250-342-1378.