Al Cloke, left, and Allan Chase of the Hooked on Miracles Team reeled in the second largest chinook during the weekend’s Tofino Saltwater Classic and donated their $3,000 prize back to the derby. (Photo - Andrew Bailey)

Tofino Saltwater Classic nets big smiles and bigger community benefits

“This derby is one of the best things that’s ever happened to Tofino.”

The Tofino Resort and Marina was full of big smiles, big fish and big prizes on Sunday as the ninth annual Tofino Saltwater Classic fishing derby came to a close.

“Everybody who came out, took time out of your busy lives to be a part of it and contribute to this small community, it means a lot to everybody here,” said the Classic’s creator, and former National Hockey League star, Brendan Morrison before handing out the awards.

Tofino’s Ryan Erickson reeled in a 26.92 lb. chinook earning the $6,000 crown. Nine-time derby participant Dan Warsack celebrated his first leader-board appearance with a 20.98 lb chinook and third place, $1,500, finish.

Fishing for the Hooked on Miracles Team, Allan Chase and Al Cloke brought in the second largest chinook at 24.78 lbs and donated their $3,000 prize back to the derby. Hooked on Miracles is another annual fishing derby in Tofino that raises money for B.C. Children’s Hospital and Cloke said he enjoyed returning to support the community at the Saltwater Classic.

“It’s a fun thing to give back,” said the 73 year-old Surrey resident. “When you get older and you’ve been happy and had a good life, it’s time to give back. It’s simple.”

Derby volunteer Sarah Stoski said the Hooked on Miracles team has been a longstanding supporter of the event.

“They’ve come back every year and been one of the biggest supporters for the Tofino Saltwater Classic,” she said. “It helps us know that we’re doing a good thing and, if we’re being supported, then we can support others too.”

Steve Austin of the Allure Tackle Team took home $1,500 for snagging the largest coho at 14.84 lbs.

“I thought I had a patch of weed but, all of a sudden, ‘Bam, big coho on,’” Austin said.

Austin, an Okanagan resident, was fishing in his first Tofino Saltwater Classic experience and said he “absolutely, 100 per cent,” plans to fish in Tofino again.

“It’s a great, great, great, event. Great people. Great food. Great comradery,” he said.

The $1,500 crown for largest halibut went to Port Alberni’s Aaron Brevick, who reeled in a 48.48 lb., trophy.

“I’ve been in lots of fishing derbies and lots of fishing charters before and I had the absolute time of my life fishing on the ‘Megabite’ with [guide] Johnny Nikiforuk,” Brevick said.

Prior to landing the prize-winner, Brevick said he had just reeled in a 42 lb. halibut and figured the prize was his.

“We thought, ‘Boom, we’ve got this,’ and we started to move and pulling up our gear and, ‘bam,’ we got this thing,” he said. “It started peeling line like there was no tomorrow…It was a head-shaker. It was taking line back and forth on me and that’s really what I wanted. I wanted something that was going to put up a fight.”

Outside of catching the largest fish he’s ever landed, Brevick was ecstatic with his derby experience.

“It was awesome. I’m absolutely thrilled. It was my first time in this derby and I’ll probably be in this derby every year for the rest of my life,” he said. “I’ve met some unbelievable people here. It was just an absolutely great event. On the dock was just as good a time as on the water. Everything was put together so professionally…I’m so thrilled with the way everybody worked together to put on such a nice, clean event. Nothing but smiles.”

Brendan Morrison began the Classic as a way to showcase the incredible fishing experiences that abound in Clayoquot Sound while also pumping money into important community initiatives.

Last year’s event raised over $80,000, with proceeds going to 12 beneficiaries including Wickaninnish Community School, the Tofino Hospital Foundation and the Tofino Community Food Initiative.

“This derby is one of the best things that’s ever happened to Tofino,” the Tofino General Hospital Foundation’s Arlene McGinnis told the Westerly News at Sunday’s award ceremony. “Brendan Morrison and his wife [Erin] are extremely generous…There’s a lot of things that they donate to and they are amazing people. We’re proud to have them in our community.”

After handing out the prizes, Morrison told the Westerly that, while his name is behind it, the Classic belongs to Tofino.

“This event doesn’t happen without the help of everybody in this community. From volunteers who put their time in, to sponsors who donate product that get auctioned off, it really is a collaborative effort from everybody and it’s really nice to see that everybody’s gotten behind it,” he said. “We’re here to participate in a fishing derby, but the end game is we’re all out here to help the community out and support youth initiatives.”

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