B y Derek Liebig
One of the oldest freshwater fishing tournaments in the country returns to the waters of Lake Champlain this weekend.
The 30th annual Lake Champlain International Father’s Day Fishing Derby will be held Saturday, June 18 through Sunday, June 20 on Lake Champlain.
The derby is the largest and oldest freshwater tournament in the United States and attracts all sorts of competitors, ranging from professional anglers to dads taking their children fishing for the first time.
Nearly 6,000 people participated in last year’s event.
“The main reason we hold the derby is to give people the opportunity to get out there and fish with their buddies or the families,” said James Ehlers, one of the tournaments spokespersons.
Locally, anglers can register at Honey’s Bait and Tackle until this Friday.
During the tournament, weigh-ins will take place at the Champlain Harbor Marina if water levels have dropped below flood level. If not, they can be weighed right at Honey’s.
“It’s a great chance to get out and fish,” said Leonard Field, owner of Honey’s Bait and Tackle.
And with waters levels still high, the fishing should be good.
“Contrary to what people might think, it’s actually been a good thing for fishing,” said Ehlers. “There is literally more water for people to access.”
Leonard Field, owner of Honey’s Bait and Tackle, said the fishing on the lake has been very good, pointing to a picture of a 23 pound catfish that was caught by one angler in the last several few weeks.
“The fish are there. Because of the water they aren’t necessarily where they normally are, but if you’re willing to move around a little you’ll find them,” Field said.
Many fish are active at a certain depth regardless of water levels. So if a species hangs out in five feet of water, they’ll still be there, it’s just five feet of water may be 30 feet closer to shore that it is in a normal season.
Ehlers also said water temperatures have remained cooler longer which has increased the fish’s metabolism and made them more active.
And if you happen to catch a fish, you could win a lot more than just personal satisfaction.
To celebrate its 30th anniversary, the tournament organizers have what they call “Surprise 30th Birthday Cash,” which makes the total purse worth nearly $750,000.
During the tournament there will be ten 30th place mystery fish worth $30,000 each.
Essentially you catch a fish that weighs a secret pre-determined amount and you win.
There will be cash awarded to the top ten finishers in each category of the seven major species categories for the first time ever and three boats will be presented to a few lucky anglers.
“We’re trying to keep the focus and family and friends and this gives people a chance to win money without having to land the largest trophy fish in the lake,” Ehlers said. “Nobody has offered this much money to fish on Lake Champlain.”
The derby begins at 12:01 a.m. on Saturday, June 18 and continues until 4 p.m. on Monday, June 20. An awards ceremony will be held in Burlington on Saturday, June 25.
The derby helps provide funds and resources for LCI in their efforts to keep Lake Champlain a swimmable, drinkable and fishable waterway.
For more information, visit www.lciderby.com, or contact Field at Honey’s Bait and Tackle.