By Jack Brezina – Contributing Writer | July 4, 2019
There were few fish left undisturbed in the Gull River after the full-frontal attack mounted by children, 14 and under, assisted by their parents and grandparents, on this past Canada Day. The banks were lined with eager anglers early Monday morning, with all eyes focused on bobbers and the groaning prize table enticingly located next to the registration table.
Canada Day celebrations in Minden have become a huge community party, a popular place to spend the holiday, taking in the various attractions … all of them offered at no charge. And to boot, the sun shone on this year’s event … always a bonus.
After testing and considering a number of locations, my grandson, Anashe and I, settled on a not too crowded riverside shady patch along Water Street. We arrived shortly after the derby officially began at 8 a.m. but soon saw the banks on either side of us and across the river quickly fill in.
Of course, the fishing competitors were accompanied by enthusiastic parents and as in my case, grandparents. Lines flailed and crossed … rat’s nest tangles were unravelled with quiet epithets muttered sotto voce … more than a few lines were rescued from overhead branches while others were abandoned, the hooks irretrievably imbedded in the many logs that litter the river bottom.
When the entire length of the fishing contest area is taken into consideration, centuries of angling advice, for better or worse, was shared and brought to bear on the task at hand. Up and down the shores, cries of a successful catch would ring out to the delight of those who had snagged the fish, while the news hardened the determination of those with empty buckets to “fish harder.”
In many case the anglers arrived in extended family groups. It was great to see parents sharing the baiting and fish removal chores while older siblings and grandparents managed the smaller ones or hovered nearby with beverages and sunscreen.
The fish derby has long been a fixture of Minden’s Canada Day celebration. It was first called a “Rock Bass Derby.” The intent was to reduce the population of rock bass in the river to make space for small and largemouth bass and trout, game species that can make for a tasty meal. I am not sure if the plan succeeded, but the event has morphed into just a fishing derby with all species caught being weighed in the young anglers’ favour. Most of the catches were held in pails filled with river water and were tipped back into the Gull after their weight was tallied.
When the weigh-in was completed, the youngsters were called up to claim a prize, in order from the heaviest catch on down. Even those who were skunked took home a prize for their efforts, thanks to the generosity of many local sponsors.
It all made rising a little earlier than usual on July 1 worth every minute. My nineyear old-grandson has mastered the many skills he has learned from the decades of angling experience passed down through generations. He made his grandfather a proud booster when he caught a worthy specimen of the bass family and he gladly claimed his prize. Me? I already had mine.