LAC LA BICHE - Organizer are calling the La Biche Walleye Cup an “incredible success” after 73 boats and 146 people participated in the first catch, photograph and release derby to take place on Lac La Biche lake, this past weekend.
Even with the additional COVID health protocols, volunteer organizer and Lions Club member Mel Kuprowsky said the weekend’s two-day event went smoothly and efficiently, even allowing some of the early bird anglers time to relax in the water long before the bear banger blast sent boats speeding off at 7 a.m. and 8 a.m. to the all corners of the big lake in search of the largest Walleye.
Having filled almost all available spots for the derby, Kuprowsky says organizers and this year's participants are already getting excited for what is hoped to be a bigger and more socially engaging event next year, that is if COVID restrictions subside and the event gets a green light from the Ministry of Environment and Parks to run again.
Overall, the two-day competitive event was enjoyable for volunteers, participants and the handful of spectators who came out Saturday morning to see the inaugural launch, including Lac La Biche Mayor Omer Mohgrabhi and MLA Laila Goodridge, Kuprowsky said. He was also pleasantly surprised seeing a larger variety of teams on the water.
Participants for the Walleye Cup drew local, regional and wider-reaching participants including eight mixed teams and half a dozen parent-child duos, showing the Lac La Biche event is a great event for families. The competition that drew in angler teams from across the Prairies, unfortunately lost couldn't accommodate two Montana teams that were unable to attend the Western Canadian Walleye Trail sanctioned tournament due to COVID-19 quarantine measures on cross-border travel that are still in place.
Lac La Biche County councilollor George L’Heureux, whose municipal riding hosted headquarters boat launch for the La Biche Walleye Cup, was glad to see the Lac La Biche Lions Club was able to make this event possible and draw so many anglers into the county.
“It's huge and we have to do more things like this,” said L’Heureux. “We have got to continue building on this and make sure it's an annual thing that we just keep building on.”
L’Heureux said speaking with residents he has heard positive feedback and a desire to have this event be repeated in the future in hopes of increasing economic impact on the community from increased gas sales to hooks and supplies. “It's going to really bring those dollars here and of course the campsites, restaurants, hotels and everything just outside the Ward that will benefit from what's happening in Ward 2 right now,” he said.
The event not only draws in anglers but their families who come days before to pre-fish the lake in preparation of the tournament.
Determining winning weights
Event participants spent two days seeking out walleye on the lake. Each team was allowed to record five fish. Teams took photos of the fish and measured the keeper catch, taking pictures of the measurements and photos of the fish being released. A length-to-weight matrix was used to determine average weights of the five fish. The weights from that conversion were used to determine the winners.
Derby winners in a top-10 breakdown on the regular event side, as well as the top five teams on a 'bonus' side, along with the top three teams per day combined split a purse estimated at more than $60,000.
Winners of the derby:
First Place: Chris Suhan and Ryan Johnson - Combined weight out 72.80
Second Place: Ron Fibke and Mark Filewich - Combined weight out 72.60
Third Place: Jeff Filewich and Ryan Filewich - Combined weight out 72.40
Top Mixed Team
Douglas Nicholson and Cyndy Nicholson
Top Youth Team
Les Lambert and Cody Lambert