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Tuesday, February 27, 2007

These guys flop big on ice fishing circuit

No heat, no hut, no fish.

That pretty much sums up Jim Rose's effort on frozen Lake Simcoe yesterday.

Not bad for his first ice fishing excursion. But since he and pal Matthew Konecny chose to test their skills at the Canadian Ice Fishing Championships, it just didn't cut the mustard at prize time.

"We'd never been ice fishing before, so we thought we'd give it a try – and why not at the Canadian championships?" Rose said.

The Chatham duo caught three little yellow stripers on "perch Saturday," the first part of the two-day event. But like true fishermen, they preferred to talk about the one that got away.

"It was a monster – a jumbo perch – but we couldn't get it through the hole in the ice," Konecny, 23, said.

A story for their grandchildren, to be sure.

Many of the 67 two-person teams from across Canada and the United States were having better luck yesterday, the so-called "big fish day" of the tournament. They hauled in whitefish, lake trout and even a huge ling cod.

But as things wound down, Gilles Binneau of nearby Jackson's Point seemed headed for the "lunker award" for biggest fish with a 78-centimetre (31 inch) lake trout.

He, like everyone else, watched officials tally the length of their catches and put them back in the water to let someone else nab another day.

"They catch 'em, we do a quick measurement and then we send them back down the hole," said assistant organizer Don McCaw. "Lake Simcoe is world-renowned for its lake trout and whitefish," he said. "It's a wonderful fishery and we want to protect it for generations to come."

Some ice anglers hunkered down in fancy huts they dragged out several kilometres onto the lake behind their snowmobiles. Others set up portable windbreaks.

"It's just you, the fish and the cold – and the fish usually win," said Nando Surace, 32, of Barrie.

"The weather was beautiful. I caught a herring in the morning, but herring don't count."

So why sit out in the cold instead of curling up on a cozy couch in front of the TV?

"There's nothing like hooking a fish 80 feet down and reeling it up," Surace said.

Ken Hougham agreed.

"There's an adrenalin rush when you hook a fish, when all of a sudden, wham! you get a good hit on the stick," the 50-year-old Keswick angler said. "It excites you.

"My wife likes the trout and we both like the whitefish," he said, although he couldn't keep any for dinner yesterday.

Rose and Konecny weren't as hi-tech as some other experienced teams. Since they had no hut, they braved the bone-chilling winds and just plopped down on tiny stools.

"We got a big zero," said Rose, 24. "A lot of people had luck, but not us."

Konecny was a little more philosophical.

"It's a beautiful day, good times," he said. "We hoped we'd catch the big one, but not today.

"Maybe next time ..."



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