Anglers hoping for big walleye
Florian Raby, shown dropping a walleye into a basket for the official weigh-in at the 444 International Walleye Tournament in this August 2008 file photo. The annual tournament runs this coming weekend in Port Colborne
Port Colborne and District Conservation Club’s 25th annual 444 International Walleye Tournament hit its limit of 100 boats in just 10 days.
Club president and tournament chairwoman Kathy McQuire said the tournament, run on Lake Erie is one of the biggest events hosted in Port Colborne and attracts anglers from everywhere.
“We have anglers from all across Ontario, Canada and the U.S.,” she said.
The 444 runs June 23 to June 25, and is split into two parts. On Friday, June 23, Erie Tracker Outfitters runs a one-day, biggest fish derby; while on Saturday, June 24 and Sunday, June 25, the conservation club runs its two-day tournament.
McQuire said the tournament will see $40,000 in prizes handed out to those who haul in the heaviest walleye Lake Erie has to offer.
“First prize is $25,000,” she said.
The tournament used to run in two waves and had more than 100 boats taking part, but McQuire said 100 boats is all the club can handle now. Boats leave in one wave on both mornings.
It also used to be held on Fathers Day, but the date was changed in the past to later in the season. It’s now held the weekend after Fathers Day.
Florian Raby, club member, said the change in the date had to do with where the walleye were on Lake Erie.
The fish move with the cold water and Raby said they should be off of Port Colborne now.
“The big walleye will be in the colder water, about 60 to 70 feet down, and the smaller ones will be higher up.”
Raby said some anglers will head out on the lake ahead of the tournament and pre-fish in search of walleye.
“They’ll go back to that spot for the tournament, but the walleye could have already moved on.”
There are two classes of boats in the tournament, small boats under 20 feet and boats larger than that. Each boat has to have a minimum of two anglers onboard with a maximum of four allowed. Each angler can use two rods while fishing. Boats are also allowed an alternate crew member in case someone becomes ill.
Raby said the bigger boats tend to head toward U.S. waters to fish, with U.S. fishing licences, while the smaller boats tend to stay in Canadian waters.