Big cash prizes at the Montreal Lake Derby attract anglers from across the country

The angler who catches the heaviest walleye at the Montreal Lake Walleye Derby wins $100,000.  (Dean Henderson - photo credit)

The angler who catches the heaviest walleye at the Montreal Lake Walleye Derby wins $100,000. (Dean Henderson – photo credit)

The top prize in the Montreal Lake Walleye Derby is $100,000 in cash, but catching the toughest walleye is no easy feat.

Last year, more than 2,600 participants took part in the Derby on Montreal Lake, around 250 kilometers north of Saskatoon.

A Cumberland House man took home the grand prize after hauling in a walleye weighing four pounds six ounces.

Montreal Lake Cree Nation vice president and organizer Dean Henderson is hoping for an even bigger turnout at the 15th annual derby on March 18th.

“We hope for 2,500 to 3,000 anglers. We typically drill 3,750 holes,” Henderson said. “You don’t have to stay at the same hole – you have the opportunity to try other holes.”

Henderson said fishermen have come from all over western Canada, Ontario and even the United States to take part in the derby.

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He said the huge zander money was the main attraction.

“I think it’s the greatest [prize payout] in Canada,” Henderson said. “I don’t know of any others taller than ours.”

The Derby is a six-hour catch-and-release event. A total of $182,500 in cash prizes – including the $100,000 grand prize – will be awarded to anglers throughout the day. Tickets are $150 in advance or $175 on site.

Saskatchewan’s Department of the Environment regulates all competitive fishing events in the province and said the derby posed little risk to the lake’s fish population.

“In this case, the Montreal Lake Walleye Derby is a catch-and-release tournament and it poses little risk to the fish,” the ministry said in a statement. “The rules and format of the event put the health and welfare of the fisheries first.”

Derby supports the community

The derby is not only lucrative for anglers.

“Our main income all goes back to our youth sports, our culture and leisure time [activities]’ Henderson said. “It’s running our program because our program isn’t funded.”

Last year, the Montreal Lake Cree Nation Sports and Recreation Department received approximately $175,000.

Dean Henderson

Dean Henderson

Youth may apply through the Grants Department for up to $500 for athletic or cultural events. Youth members in urban settings and Little Red’s sub-community also benefit from funding.

The Fishing Derby features a canteen and hourly 50/50 draws approaching $15,000 per draw. Proceeds go to programs at the Montreal Lake school.

“Last year was the highest amount of 50/50 [we’ve had] around $78,000,” Henderson said. “They take all the profits and go to year-end school trips. It’s shared between all the classrooms.”


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