Blue skies over the Cowichan Valley on Saturday meant that the 21st annual Robert Smith Memorial Frostbite Derby was a little less frosty than usual.
“I think this was the first day in a long time we’ve had a sunny day. Usually it’s raining or snowing,” said Wilma Rowbottom, president of the Canadian Legion Branch 210 which hosts the event as one of its main yearly fundraisers.
Robert Smith was an avid fisherman from the Cowichan Lake district who died in a car accident.
Smith was a member of the Elks Club and the Legion at the time of his death, and while the derby was originally organized and hosted by the Elks Club, when the Lake Cowichan chapter closed down the Legion took over responsibility for the event.
“We’ve been doing it for quite a few years,” said Rowbottom.
Five cash prizes are award for the five biggest fish, with many more door prizes given out to almost all participants throughout the evening.
“We had wonderful support from the businesses in the community. We only had to purchase a few things. This is the only time we actually approach them for a donation. The only other time we do any soliciting is for poppy sales for Remembrance Day.”
Wyatt Waite of Courtenay captured the $250 grand prize with a 2.78-pound trout. Steve Friesen came second with a 2.39-pound catch, followed by Jake Walters with a 2.07-pound.
“It feels amazing of course,” said Waite, who was competing in the derby for the first time. He spent the day on the Lake with his father and grandfather.
“We trolled down to Sandy Beach and we trolled Goat Island a bit of the day, but mostly we were in the North Arm,” he said.
There were 75 participants in this year’s competition.
“They can only fish in our Lake and Bear Lake. Cutthroat and rainbow trout,” said Sam Jones, event chairperson.
“[Participants] don’t have to be fishing in a boat. They can fish from shore, just so long as they’re fishing in this lake or Bear Lake.”
The total amount of money raised this year has not yet been calculated.