When Lake Champlain International announced that the 39th Annual Father’s Day Fishing Derby was still on for this weekend, June 21-23, its Facebook page broke out with comments like these:
“My Grandson will have tears of JOY!!!! Thank you!!!!” wrote one commenter. Another wrote,
“Thank you for all you do! Best kick off to the summer is the LCI Derby”.
While there has been one incident of fraud in the history of the tournament which took place in 2015, which you can read more about here, you’ll find that passion and spirit for the Derby are more common than anything else.
For many, the LCI Father’s Day Tournament is a tradition that goes hand in hand with celebrating the holiday and making memories as a family. Take Don Tobi, who has been a Weigh Station Captain for 35 years. He’s had the pleasure of watching the Hall family from Milton grow as he interacts with them at his weigh station each year. As the Halls went from competing as father and son to husband and wife and then as father, mother and daughters, Tobi got to talk strategy and reminisce with the family as they grew along the way.
With a laugh, Tobi adds, “It’s awesome, but it makes me feel like an old man.” The Halls are just one of many families who return each year to join the roughly 5,000 people who fish in the Derby each year.
While most of the anglers who fish the Derby don’t catch fish big enough to earn them spots on the podium, heading over to the weigh station is nonetheless an exciting experience, unique to the Derby and worth visiting even if the fish isn’t particularly impressive. Often, the weigh station is a favorite of the Derby’s youngest participants who compete for 35 different prizes in the Junior Angler Division for kids under 14. Lake Champlain’s wide variety of fish ranging from Rainbow Trout to Northern Pike offer young anglers a great introduction to the lake and fishing.
Tobi adds that the Derby is something people of all socioeconomic backgrounds take part in. “You can fish from the shore with a forked stick and a night crawler and catch a winning catfish and do just as well as the guys in $50,000 boats” says Tobi.
One great success story of the Derby took place in 2016 when Paul Bushee, of Brandon, and his son were fishing under Crown Point Bridge and Bushee’s son reeled in a 28 pound carp which was both the largest carp and the largest fish over all caught over the three day competition. Bushee, who’s been fishing on Champlain for 30 years recalled, about the prizewinning fish, “It just about broke the swivel as soon as we got it in the net.”
Anglers of all ages are looking forward to an event, which, according to Liz Ehlers “helps maintain the social fabric of our rural communities; offers families a close-to-home, stress-relieving activity, and an opportunity to reconnect. It generates income for hundreds of small businesses; and provides our state fisheries biologists with important data”
It doesn’t hurt that the tournament offers a range of impressive prizes. Setting a Lake Champlain record for an eligible species will win you $10,000 and for eight species divisions, the top 10 anglers in each division will be awarded cash prizes. Breaking tournament records by 0.01 pounds or more can win an angler up to $3,000. The top 10 anglers in each of the 8 species divisions will be rewarded with cash prizes. Special prizes will also be awarded to the highest scoring men and women in each of the Water Divisions.
On top of the cash prizes available, each person who registers for the Derby will be entered to win a 7-night fishing trip for two to Alaska. The travel arrangements, provided by Tundratour Adventure Travel, will be tailored to the winner and can include salt water fishing for halibut and rock fish, a float down the famous Kenai River or a trip to remote salmon lakes.
Given the current public health situation, the award ceremony which usually draws about 400 guests is cancelled. Additional precautions include the transition to an online platform for the raffle and the implementation of secondary fish holding tanks to minimize contact between anglers and weigh station workers. On the New York State side of the Lake, face coverings are required by the state government, on the Vermont side they are strongly encouraged.
Lake Champlain International, a nonprofit based in Colchester, protects and preserves the lake through advocacy, events, education and grass-roots campaigns. Its mission is to work for a “swimmable, drinkable, fishable Lake Champlain.” The event’s presenting sponsor is Yamaha. Other sponsors include, but aren’t limited to, Vermont Fish and WildLife, Jolley, Orvis and Shaw’s.
Online registration ends Friday June 19th at midnight and can also be done in person at over 30 outdoor retailers in New York and Vermont. Registration fees range from $32 for Junior Anglers to $125 for the “Family Everything Pass”. Head to LCI’s website for more information.
Tournament records from various years are as follows:
Atlantic Salmon – 11.42 lbs
Bowfin – 13.15 lbs
Lake Trout – 17.49 lbs
Largemouth Bass – 7.17 lbs
Smallmouth Bass – 6.24 lbs
Northern Pike – 23.74 lbs
Walleye – 12.42 lbs
Channel Catfish – 31.43 lbs
Sheepshead – 24.97 lbs
Lake records, from various years, are as follows:
Atlantic Salmon – 12.65 lbs
Bowfin – 14.50 lbs
Lake Trout – 18.94 lbs
Largemouth Bass – 7.19 lbs
Smallmouth Bass – 6.78 lbs
Northern Pike – 26.00 lbs
Walleye – 14.55 lbs
Channel Catfish – 32.25 lbs
Sheepshead – 25.54 lbs
In order to be eligible for consideration, a fish must be within the following list of species and meet a minimum length:
Cold Water Division:
Rainbow Trout / Steelhead: Minimum Length 21”
Lake Trout: Minimum Length 28”
Brown Trout: Minimum Length 19”
Landlocked Atlantic Salmon: Minimum Length 21”
Cool Water Division:
Smallmouth Bass: Minimum Length 17”
Walleye: Minimum Length 25”
Northern Pike: Minimum Length 32”
Warm Water Division:
Largemouth Bass: Minimum Length 16”
Channel Catfish: Minimum Length 26”
Bowfin: Minimum Length 23:
Carp: Minimum Length 26”
Sheepshead: Minimum Length 22”
Junior Anglers Division: (14 and younger)
Yellow Perch: Minimum Length 12”