Registration for the Pelican Lake Ice Fishing Derby opens tomorrow (February 1st) and this year, it will be the first of two ice fishing derbies held at Ninette.

The regular annual derby will be held on Saturday, March 2nd, and a special kids' derby on the following weekend, March 9th.

Each year the annual event draws over 1000 anglers to Pelican Lake to win the quad, but because of changes to ice fishing rules through Manitoba Conservation and Fisheries, the organizing committee has opted for an online app that measures and documents the time the fish was caught through a type of photo ID, so as not to be transporting the larger fish, which are the egg-layers, to a measuring station.   

The reason is one cannot be in possession of a northern pike larger than 75 cm (29.5 inches) or a walleye 55 cm (21.65 inches), as again these are the egg-layer.

With this new way of measuring, committee Chair, Trevor Maguire, says it opened up a second ice fishing derby especially for kids ages 3-14 years old, to take place the following Saturday.  The kids' derby will still be free, and the prizing will be focused on kids, with the top prize being a kayak.

"The part that I'm going to miss is the family who came fishing," shares Maguire, "mom and dad bought a couple of tickets in the derby and they're fishing, and they've got 2 or 3 little kids running around and they're fishing in the youth side, and that's going to be pushed back to the next week. But I actually think our youth derby will be that much better because now our whole committee can focus on the educational component, the mentorship component and just make the day more fun for kids on the second derby!"

With changes there are always challenges, but Maguire says the benefits may actually outweigh the troubles.

Using the Fish Donkey App will allow anglers more fishing time and less travel / measure time, and it might help to curb those who try to cheat the system to win the bigger prizes. "For anglers this will be a much faster turnaround, because you're going to be in the action of fishing longer, so you do have a better chance of winning a prize in that respect."

"This will allow people to be more spread out," says Maguire. "We're still not going to let you go farther than Manhattan point because our security team still needs to come around and make sure that people aren't cheating.  The goal is to run a fun, fair event and if somebody is not playing by the rules, we don't want them there, and it wrecks it for everybody else."

"The Fish Donkey App helps with some of the problems yes, because it's geo-tagging," continues Maguire, "so I know when and where you caught the fish, and the photography helps us a little but there are still those who find ways to cheat."

"You would hope that everybody pays their $60 and comes and has a fun day and has an honest competition," he adds. "But that would mean that we would never kick anybody out. And well, we have to take a ticket away from somebody every year for cheating."

The most common offense is when an angler is fishing with too many lines in the water, which is against fisheries rules. They have also caught people trying to smuggle pre-caught fish into the derby.  Each angler is allowed to fish two lines at any given time.  If kids want to fish in the adult derby for the larger prizes, they're welcome to do that, says Maguire.  However, they would need to pay the registration fee of $60 to qualify.

"The premise of the rule change is that we want to protect our fisheries," explains Maguire. "There's a lot more of us pushing on a lot fewer lakes and if we don't take care of them, we'll just deplete the resource.  So that's part of why we're aerating. That's why we're stocking. We're trying to keep these lakes healthy and happy with lots of fish in them so that kids can go out and fish, so you can go out and fish on a weekend, enjoy it and go back the next weekend and it's still fishable."

"The way the lake is now I think everybody is pretty happy," he adds. "Property values around the lake is up, activities in and around the lake is up, everybody is enjoying the lake!"

To register for the Pelican Lake Ice Fishing Derby click HERE!

To learn about the Fish Donkey App, click HERE!