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Plenty of families take the bait;

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Plenty of families take the bait; Family fishing weekend at hit at Callander Bay, Otter Lake



Gord Young / North Bay Nugget

February 25, 2008



A break in the recent cold spell this weekend was the only bait required to get families hooked on fishing.


Both experienced and rookie anglers took to the ice across the area as Ontario marked its annual family fishing weekend when Canadian residents can fish licence-free.


The open fishing weekend, coupled with temperatures that hovered just below the freezing mark, lured Ginette and Dean Hamelin out of their heated home for an afternoon with their family on the ice in Callander Bay on Lake Nipissing.


"We're meeting my brother and his two friends . . . they're originally from Africa and have never ice fished before," said Ginette, who headed onto the ice with her father, who was lugging an auger, and her husband, who was pulling a sled carrying their two-year-old son, Sebastien.


Although the licence-free weekend was an incentive for many occasional and first-time anglers, there were plenty of people among the clusters of ice huts on the lake that would have fished anyway. Organizers estimated nearly 200 people participated Saturday in the Callander Legion's 15th annual ice fishing derby, which happened to coincide with family fishing weekend.


"It was a perfect day, but we've always had a good turnout," said Bruce Rodgers, who helped organize the derby.


He said plenty of fish were caught. The largest included a 24-inch walleye - just over the slot size - and a 32-inch northern pike.


Rick Degans, who travelled from Huntsville with his two young boys to try his hand at catching some Lake Nipissing walleye, wasn't even aware of the licence-free weekend.


"They say you can actually catch fish here," said Degans, who apparently hasn't had much luck fishing in the Huntsville area this winter.


When his two boys weren't fishing, they were tossing snow and sliding on the ice - a scene repeated countless times throughout the weekend by other children who took to area lakes with their families, including those who participated Saturday in the North Bay Hunters and Anglers perch derby on Otter Lake.


"We had a nice sunny day and the wind stayed away until late afternoon," said club president Robert Taylor, noting an estimated 40 people, mostly parents and their children, took part in the event.


Taylor said the first derby for the club in recent years was aimed at taking advantage of the licence-free weekend and promoting Otter Lake for outdoor recreational use.


Although the fish weren't really biting - only about a dozen were caught, with an eight-inch perch taking the top price - Taylor said the event was a great success. Plenty of prizes were given out but, most importantly, he said the children participating in the event had fun.

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