About 80 walleyes had an adventurous time in the St. Marys River this past weekend.
To the best knowledge of organizers of the Kiwanis Invitational Walleye Tournament, all the fish lived to tell about it.
Tournament organizers went to great lengths to ensure all fish survived the catch-and-release event that was Sault Ste. Marie's first offering for the Northern Ontario Walleye Trail competition.
In exchange for earning $10,000 for the winning anglers, the fish all went free after a few good cheers and some applause.
Johnny Synett and Harold Glauch (seen with volunteers weighing their fish) brought in the most pounds of fish both Saturday and Sunday and also delivered the biggest fish on Saturday.
The team is from the Kincheloe area and both say they are no strangers to the St. Marys River.
Both members have fished the local river in the past and they spent more than a week prefishing it before the tournament but caught nothing.
"It's not an easy system to fish but there's plenty of fish in it," Synett said. "After 10 days of fishing we caught our first fish on Saturday morning."
The rest, as they say, is a fish story.
With 26.89 pounds of walleye on Saturday and 18.67 pounds on Sunday for a total of 45.56 pounds for the weekend, they walked away with the big purse and highly-coveted bragging rights as winners of the first annual Kiwanis Invitational Walleye Tournament.
Saultites Jason Doyon and Rob Laframboise finished second with a total of 40.17 pounds of fish for the weekend.
They were close to the first place team by the end of Saturday but the gap widened with the tough fishing in Sunday's heat and still water.
On Sunday, Doyon and Laframboise brought in 15.92 pounds of walleye, well under their Saturday total of 24.25 pounds.
One team caught no fish on Sunday and all reported a tough time to find and land fish.
Fifth-place team Denis Perrier and Matt Guacci landed the big fish (5.27 pounds) and the $1,000 prize for it on Sunday.
Italo Labignan of TSN's Canadian Sportfishing congratulated organizers of the event for their careful and professional handling of the fish; the beautiful and accommodating facilities the event was held in and the administration of the tournament.
"Over the last 27 years - that's how long the show has been on TSN - I used to fish tournaments and I also covered a lot of tournaments both in the Canada and in the U.S. and also internationally," he said. "This tournament is very well run."
Labignan highlighted some uncommon and effective fish-handling techniques used by tournament organizers.
These included weighing the fish in water and limiting handling of the fish, holding them in constantly refreshed river water and careful releasing techniques in water of similar temperature to that in which the fish were caught.
Divers checking the Bondar Marina on Saturday after the fish were released confirmed zero mortality from the day's catch.
Labigan said this is somewhat rare and very impressive.
Some of fish usually die shortly after release, he said.
It's thought this can be because of too much handling, too much time out of water, release into water too different in temperature from where they were caught or any combination of factors, Labigan said.
The Canadian Sportfishing crew shot two episodes of the show during the time they were in the Sault, one on fishing opportunities in the area and the other on the Kiwanis Invitational Walleye Tournament.
Labigan said they will be aired on TSN sometime this winter.
Tournament Co-Chair Shane Turcotte said support of sponsors willing to take a chance on a new event and a huge force of capable volunteers made it possible to offer such a professional and enjoyable tournament.
For more information on this Lakeshore Kiwanis organized event please visit the website.
For more information on Canadian Sportfishing please visit the website.
The tournament results follow.
************************* Kiwanis Invitational Walleye Tournament top 10
Based on total weight in pounds of walleye caught and brought in healthy
1. Johnny Synett and Harold Glauch - 45.56
2. Jason Doyon and Rob Laframboise - 40.17
3. Chris and Robert Eu Sebi - 34.35
4. Ron Gordon and Brian Schwinderson - 34.28
5. Denis Perrier and Matt Guacci - 34.08
6. Greg Ryckman and Curtis White - 25.37
7. Ryan Steinburg and Craig Coulter - 24.64
8. Joe Giuliani and Norm Thorkilson - 20.93
9. Chris McMillan and Paul Stewart - 16.51
10. Steven Bumstead and Douglas Krause - 13.64