Tough derby at Cultus Lake

Published on June 25th, 2009 by Chris

It was good to get back to some fishing the past week as the end of the steelhead season was a bit of a lull for this angler for awhile. Now with Summer coming on the calendar, yesterday it signalled the start of the Summer salmon fishery on the rivers and the big saltwater lake. Encouraging reports from Matt Stabler on the West Coast of Vancouver Island sure gets the blood pumping in one’s veins. It gives one some good dreams at night of that big one putting you to the test.

The first trip was with the Master, Frank, the two Dons to Cultus Lake to tag 25 northern pikeminnows for the Greg Clark Memorial Family Fishing Derby which was held on last Saturday. Anyone catching a tagged fish would win $100 on derby day.

I was my usual bad self at trying to catch them as I think I got 3 and one of the biggest I caught had swallowed the hook so Nick did not tag it as the hook was hard to remove before it was released. Frank also picked up a nice cutthroat trout on a worm, it was over 2 pounds. Cultus is always worth trying for some trout at this time of the year, before the water skiers take over the lake. Jenna, who is the photo journalist for the Chilliwack Progress, came out in the boat to get a picture for the pre-derby story. Jenna even remarked about my skill level. I should have taken the camera and let her fish!

It took us about three hours to get the 25 and we had to take a break to do a TV story with Shaw TV. I was even poor at that as I stumbled on a couple of questions which lead to a retake. When it ran on TV last week, one of the shots of me casting saw me making a terrible expression but at least the Toronto Maple Leaf Hat looked good, no I was not wearing it. Maybe that is why I was having tough fishing. After we had the 25 tagged fish, an enjoyable lunch with the boys for some good fellowship. The Master was his usual self with plenty of stories. Of course he caught the most, maybe that’s why he was so jovial but he always out fishes us.

I then slipped out for the opening of chinook salmon on Tuesday and picked up a small chinook. It was good to see the Maple Leaf Drennan going swimming again. Of course fresh fish again tasted excellent to the palate.

Then it was Friday, the final day of getting ready for the pikeminnow derby at Cultus Lake.

My Friday night was spent sleeping in the Leaf Mobile #2 as 4 had to safeguard overnight the setup for the derby at Main Beach. By the way LM #1 had been shuffled off to another Maple Leaf fan, I hope. I shed a few tears as she left me as the two of us shared many solitary fishing trips together, which I have shared with you on The Journal over the years. That was after I inherited her from my late dad. I have yet to see her on the roads with her new owner at her wheel.

Before the four of us went to bed, we watched the TV that I brought along. The show was the fishing trip that Nick, Rodney, Terry and I did to the lakes two years ago that I filmed. It Was good to see the fishing again and the nice rainbows that we caught over the 2 days. We have not made the annual lake trip yet. It is a bit hard with Rod in Denmark!

Leaf Mobile #2 has yet to be painted blue, but maybe she will stay in her present color as she is a shy young gal and does not like to be recognized by other anglers she tells me. She is a spry young thing and gives her owner driving pleasure on the journeys she has made so far, good for this pensioner.

The night was short as thinking about the derby ahead did not lend for a sound sleep. Anyway, I was up early to put the coffee pot on per Ev’s instructions from the night before. Buck and Buckeye, who spent the night too, would enjoy a cup when they got up as well.

When I was getting the fishing rod out of LM’s cab I heard a crunch sound. Darn I had stepped on the Maple Leaf Drennan; it lay shattered in several pieces on the ground. It would not be going downtown with a fish on the end again. I was glad that it was dark and no one was around to see its death cry.

I did a tour around the tents and the concession booth while the coffee perked. Nothing around, not even the coons that tried to have a late supper in Ev’s concession around midnight last year. They disturbed my sleep then but I got some exercise by chasing the group of masked bandits up a tree.

Buck finally stirred, it was about 4:00am. He likes to get an early start for the derby and always does well. They got about 125 last year all on worms.

We visited and then went for a nice cup of Java. As he filled his cup, Buck said the coffee looked a little weak.

I looked and said maybe it was not ready yet. Buck then said, “You had plugged in the coffee maker with just hot water in it!”

What a beak I was, first the Drennan now this. Made for some good laughs anyway.

Finally the coffee did get made and daylight came, the wind had died down and the sky looked clear. Good as it would make an enjoyable day for all.

Buck pushed off. Even though I had not entered the derby, I hopped in the Leaf Craft #2 and would try it for an hour before I had to start selling tickets. Buckeye pushed me off into the calm stillwater of Cultus. Only the birds were singing as the human residents of the lake were still snoring. I wondered if they heard the clank of the oars, I doubt it.

As I rowed the Leaf Craft to where I wanted to drop my anchor, a few fish were dimpling the surface, starting their day too, most likely trout. An eagle circled, looking keenly, soaring silently, for an unwary fish. She or he needed food for the youngs, in a nest high up a conifer tree along the lake shore, somewhere close.

Both Buck and I had trouble finding any fish for the time we were fishing close together. After picking up Tyler and his friend, he moved on to another part of the lake. Looking keenly too, like the eagle.

A few other boats were launching, a canoe came by and worked near me and they too were having trouble getting a bite. Where are they, we said to each other. They too moved on eventually. I finally got a bite on the rod but I missed it. I was using a bit of prawn. I was also trying a bit of a hot dog wiener, with no success.

I then switched to bread dough that friend Gary said is good, he gave me some on Friday night. I got a bit every time but they turned out to be shiners, about 2 inches long, I landed one.

My time was up as I had to get back to Main Beach to sell tickets.

As I beached the Leaf Craft I saw the directors were starting to arrive setting out the prizes and displays. The Master, who was looking after the prizes, had many, good ones too. Ev, Frank and others had the concession going; the aroma of breakfast combined with the fresh morning air was appealing. As a joke, I weighed in my shiner even though it was not the fish that were to be weighed in. I wanted an “I caught a fish” button, which all who caught a fish would receive.

People were arriving, boats were plying the waters, looking for the pikeminnows that I could not locate in the hour or so. The excitement on the faces of the children made all the work and weeks of planning by the Fraser Valley directors worth it.

People came asking for loaner rods as some media articles said rods would be made available when it should have read they were for children who were fishing on the docks under the supervision of directors. Steve was busy rounding and rigging up as many as he could to accommodate the eager anglers. Sometimes things go wrong when dealing with the press and you get misquoted. I think people understood that we were doing the best we could.

Ticket sales were brisk and I sold a couple of annual FVSS memberships for $10. They were hard to sell sometimes; we need more members to support the derby and the work of the FVSS as they work for anglers to retain fishing opportunities. Consider taking one out, Email me if you would like a membership. Many do not know that it was the work of the FVSS starting back in 1984 that gave you salmon opportunities for all species on the Fraser and other rivers. Without the hard work by many over the years, I believe that you would not have had the chinooks reopened back in the 80’s.

Nick now had his crew doing the pre-draws on tickets bought by Friday night; they were posted on a board. This was done to speed up the prize draw process as last year it took forever to get through the draws.

My wife’s blue grass band, Work in Process was setting up and starting to play. With my video camera, I recorded one song, Big Fraser, about salmon coming up the mighty Fraser.

Games were in full swing and the kids were enjoying them. The docks were full of fishers. Reports were coming in that the fishing was indeed slow; I had found that out in my brief foray, as I reported above.

Dean Werk of Great River Fishing Adventure had his guides and others in jetboats taking people out for an hour or so. Such a nice touch and many thanks should go to Dean for this as well as the following companies and guides. If you want to book fishing trip consider them as they give freely of their time each derby.

  • Len’s Sportfishing Adventures – Greg Wolf
  • BlueWater Rockies Sportfish Guide Co. – Chris Ciesla
  • Swiftwater Guiding – Oliver Rutschman
  • Reaction Fly & Tackle – Derick Van Nes
  • Great River Fishing Adventures – Kevin Hawryluk, Greg Larson, Dean Werk

Andrew, my younger son, arrived with grandson Max and they got on one of the scheduled trips. In his younger days, Andrew liked to fish and was an accomplished angler back then. Other interests seemed to outweigh fishing in the last few years but a 2 year old son starts to bring back memories from his own youth. I was of course so happy to see this.

They were booked on Dean’s boat and I saw them off, filming them at the same time, hoping they could outfish dad and granddad. When they came back, Andrew had outfished dad again with a pikeminnow and a released sculpin. Apparently Max enjoyed steering the boat with Dean. His time will come, I hope, to carry on the tradition of angling that has passed down from many family generations. They both won draw prizes too, fly and spin combos.

The beach was busy and fish started to come to the scales where Fergy and his daughters tabulated the weights.

No tagged fish were coming in and at the end of the derby none were, but the people who caught any pikeminnows were given a special draw tickets. Five people whose tickets were drawn won $100 each. Our own Daniel was one of them, lucky guy. He better have taken his girlfriend out for supper instead of buying more fishing tackle.

The derby came to an end and the awards were handed out. Fishing was indeed slow with 473 pikeminnows brought to the scales, which was down from close to 700 caught last year by fewer anglers. Is the derby and seining of the fish having an effect on the population or was it the change in weather that put the bite off? Who knows, as this is fishing. The final count of anglers who bought a derby ticket was 420 adults and 374 children, for a total of 794.

The time had passed quickly, the 2009 Greg Clark Memorial Family Fishing Derby was in the books and now the directors were in charge with taking everything down. I am glad that the Leaf Mobile #2 is bigger than its predecessor because I got most of my stuff in, including Leaf Craft 2. Buck’s wife had to take the leftovers to my house before I and the Buck’s family had supper at Ricky’s.

A good day and derby, tiring for many but rewarding to all because of the enjoyment felt by many families in sharing our great pastime of fishing and taking in the event. Frank told me last night that he thinks there were over 1,000 that either fished or came by the displays. A new record indeed.

Now it is time for me to start another fishing trip, another journal and maybe a fish or two but I better not try for pikeminnows.

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