An upcoming fishing derby will help fund local salmon restoration efforts. (Photo - Brad Thompson)

Willie Mitchell launches first annual Fishing for the Future tournament in Tofino

“The objective will be to see funds raised from the event go directly to rivers, salmon, and enhancement.”

Tofino now has two former NHL stars contributing to the community through philanthropic fishing derbies.

The Tofino Resort and Marina’s first annual Fish for the Future Tournament will run from Sept. 22-24 with all proceeds going towards local salmon habitats and restoration efforts.

“We feel like it’s a duty and an obligation to give back to the resource. That’s in our DNA,” said the resort’s co-owner Willie Mitchell. “All the operators in the area, whether that’s fishing guides or whale watching boats, at the end of the day, we all put an impact onto the watershed, so something that’s super important to us is to give back.”

Mitchell has seen the success his friend and fellow former Vancouver Canuck Brendan Morrison has had raising money for various local organization’s through the annual Tofino Saltwater Classic and said he’s excited to see his new Fish for the Future Tournament become another annual community-benfitting staple.

“We’re going to have a bunch of laughs while we’re raising money for the watershed,” Mitchell said. “This is going to be the first year of something we’re going to grow and I guarantee it’s going to be one of the bigger events in Tofino because it’s in our DNA and it’s just the right thing to do…We’ll do some things right and we’ll do some things wrong because it’s year one, but at the end of the day it’s money for the watershed and we’re just super happy to play our part in that.”

The winner will receive a trip for four to Vancouver to watch the National Hockey League’s Vancouver Canucks take on the Dallas Stars. The prize includes flights, accommodation and a meet and greet with NHL star Dan Hamhuis. Second and third place prizes include a Heli-fishing day-trip and two night stay at the Tofino Resort and Marina.

“Instead of giving away money as a prize we’re going to be giving away experiences, really cool ones at that, that way all the money that’s coming in is going into the watershed,” Mitchell said. “It’s not just a fishing derby, for me it’s bigger than that it’s about doing the right thing for the resource. The fishing’s kind of a bonus.”

The cost to compete is $200 and the funds raised will be reinvested into the Clayoquot Watershed, allowing for the release of 50,000 chinook into Tranquil Creek and 40,000 coho into Kootowis Creek as well as supporting the Clayoquot Sound Wild Salmon Fund, which was established by the Salmon Round Table in 2016 and is comprised of sport, aboriginal and commercial fishers as well as environmental stewardship groups and the Department of Fisheries and Oceans Canada.

“The Clayoquot Sound Salmon Round Table is pleased to be working with the Marina Resort, the Tla-o-qui-aht First Nation and the Tofino Enhancement Society on this project,” Round Table member Saya Masso told the Westerly.

“The objective will be to see funds raised from the event go directly to rivers, salmon, and enhancement. This event will be one of the many tools that will assist the Clayoqout Sound Salmon Round Table grow a fund that will be utilized for the betterment of wild salmon stocks in the region.”

Masso added the Round Table’s work, and the community’s support of it, is vital because the species it’s working to protect is paramount to the West Coast’s way of life.

“Salmon is tremendously important to so many people and businesses in the region,” he said. “It is everyone’s vision of the future, that the rivers in Clayoqout Sound will be once again thriving and abundant with wild salmon of all species.”

Fish farming company Cermaq Canada helped get the Wild Salmon Fund off the ground last year with a $5,000 donation and Cermaq’s Tofino Area Manager James Costello said he was thrilled to get behind the initiative and join the Round Table.

“Personally, as a lifelong fishing enthusiast and local, it has been important for me to participate in the Round Table process,” he said.

“As a Co-Chair, and also as someone representing salmon aquaculture as a user-group in the area, it has been equally as valuable to be able to help direct funding efforts from Cermaq to needed areas, such as the establishment of the Clayoquot Wild Salmon Fund, which we were able to start in 2016.”

Anyone wanting to support the cause by participating in the Fish for the Future Tournament can sign up through Tofino Resort and Marina at 250-680-4184.

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