Brokenhead Ojibway Nation held its inaugural ice fishing derby on the southeastern part of Lake Winnipeg on Saturday, and people from across the country joined with the hope of reeling in top prizes.

“It just made sense to have an event like this, because a lot of people would come to support it,” Brokenhead Chief Gordon Bluesky told CBC.

“We’ve got people from all over the place: Crees, Ojibwes, Métis,” he said, adding that people came from Alberta, Ontario, Saskatchewan and northern Manitoba to fish.

The goal is for the event to become an annual fixture for the community, and for more and larger prizes to be offered. Proceeds from the event will go toward supporting the community’s annual powwow and Treaty Day events, said Bluesky.

“I’m hoping that every event that we have, especially for ice fishing, just gets bigger and bigger,” he said. “We want to get as many people out here as we can to come and enjoy this with us.”

A man holds a pike toward the camera.
The winning catch for longest pike came in at 28 inches. (Walther Bernal/CBC)

The winning catch for longest pike came in at 28 inches and the longest walleye was 25 inches. Five top prizes were offered for each category, and all of the fish were released back into the water.

The biggest prize at Saturday’s derby was for the longest walleye, which brought a $20,000 award.

“We’re really excited about that person having the privilege of carrying the title until next year,” said Bluesky, adding that the winner will also be offered a ticket to next year’s derby.

Mindy Chief was one contestant vying for a winning catch.

“I’m pretty excited. There’s a lot of people out here — I never expected this many people,” the Brokenhead resident told CBC.

A woman is seen reaching into a bag of live minnows so she can fish.
Brokenhead resident Mindy Chief learned how to fish from her grandfather. (Walther Bernal/CBC)

The derby was a chance for her to relax, as she said she has been mourning her father who passed away recently. It was also an opportunity to use some of her grandfather’s teachings, who raised Chief and her siblings to become fishers.

“Just don’t use any lotions or scented items on your hands, because the fish can sense the smell,” she said.

Wayne Moore travelled from Sapotaweyak Cree Nation in northern Manitoba to take part in the derby.

Ice fishing is a beloved hobby for the retiree and his son, who travel to ice derbies across northern Manitoba and Saskatchewan from early February until the ice melts.

While the prizes were alluring, Moore said he was happy to just catch a fish.

“I just love it.”

Moore said it was his first time travelling south for a derby. His advice for aspiring ice fishers is to stay calm.

“Just be patient,” he said.

Article courtesy of CBC News