The good times rolled at Tofino Resort and Marina over the weekend as Willie Mitchell’s Fish for the Future derby netted approximately $14,000 for salmon restoration efforts.
“It was amazing,” Mitchell told the Westerly News at the event’s closing ceremonies. “It was really a successful event and we’re looking forward to another year to help out those good people at the hatchery.”
Mitchell launched the event last year and all proceeds raised are invested into Clayoquot Sound with 80 per cent going to the Tofino Hatchery and 20 per cent going to the Clayoquot Salmon Roundtable.
He suggested the hatchery does not receive enough annual support from the federal government and he hopes his catch and release Fish for the Future derby raises awareness, as well as dollars, for the cause.
“[The hatchery] only gets $8,000 from the Department of Fisheries and Oceans so we think we at least got two years of funding out of a small group of people here who really believe in what we’re doing, and that is trying to bring fish back to the watershed,” Mitchell said. “There’s systems in the watershed that are endangered and what we’re trying to do is play a small part to bring them back.”
Along with hosting the derby, Mitchell competed as well and snagged a 12.24 lb coho, which earned him second place. He donated his prize back to the event’s volunteers.
“It was a chance to allow my prize to go to them and say thanks for their hard work,” he said. “It was really cool. I was pretty pumped about having that opportunity to give that to them.”
Rob Wilson of Delta reeled in the weekend’s largest fish at 15.5 lbs.
“We didn’t even know what it was at first. We’re turning a corner, the rod bounces, I hook it, we get it close to the boat and I’m going, ‘Holy jeez. That’s a big fish,” Wilson said adding that he had a blast throughout the derby. “The weekend here was incredible. It’s a beautiful place…Great time fishing, great group of people, great cause.”
Ucluelet fisher Erica Daley’s 10.78 lb catch earned her top honours in the women’s division.
“It was exhilarating. Fishing is so much fun and it was great out on the water,” she said. “It was a great weekend. This year was the first year it was catch and release and it’s for such a good cause.”
Susan MacDonald of Comox was fishing in Tofino for the first time and landed the third biggest fish in the women’s division at 7.9 lbs.
“I was excited to have that fish on…We were just going crazy,” she said, adding she was delighted with her Fish for the Future experience. “I’ve had a blast since the moment I got here. Everybody has been incredibly helpful and generous.”
Tofino Resort and Marina has released a six-minute video through its Facebook page highlighting the efforts local groups are making to restore salmon populations.
“The world’s oceans have always given me so much on a spiritual level so I feel like it’s my obligation to give back and leave it in the same place or, hopefully, a better place for the next generation,” Mitchell said.
“Salmon, if you give them a chance, just a little bit of a chance, they’ll get back to that river and regenerate; new smolts will come out, go out and do their thing and come back and give us and our marine environment so much…We’re very fortunate to live where we are, to have this resource and, for me, I just want to do my part in making sure it stays that way for the greater good of humanity.”