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Fishing derby welcomes spring

Karen Mackenzie
Northern News Services
Published Monday, June 9, 2008

AUSUSTTUQ/GRISE FIORD - There's nothing like the warm sunshine beating down on your tent to tell you the new season's here.

Ausuitturmiut welcomed springtime with their annual fishing derby on Devon Island last month.

"We didn't catch too many fish, but it didn't matter. It was more about just getting out of town!" said Melissa Patey with a laugh.

Patey, who works as the hamlet's recreation co-ordinator, said the event has been taking place since 2004.

Advertised on the local radio and through mailbox flyers, it attracted about six tents' worth of residents this year, who braved mushy trails due to the quickly melting ice.

"It was about seven hours to get there by Ski-Doo," Patey said.

Her own one-year-old daughter is becoming an old hand at such journeys.

"This was her third trip," Patey said. "She was born in Alberta and we went camping when she was still a newborn."

It's a healthy event for young people, she added.

"For all the youth it's important, so they can learn more abut hunting and fishing from the older people," she said. "It's just too bad we don't have more elders, because we would learn more."

The site they chose is one that has been used traditionally as a fishing spot for many years.

"Throughout the years we have returned there, but this year because of the ice conditions not as many came out," said hamlet mayor Meeka Kiguktak.

Events like these are also a good chance for the community to reconnect before everyone heads out on the land for the summer, she said.

"When the school is out it will become a family thing," said Kiguktak, who also works at Ummimak School. "Everybody is getting ready. All the little ones are looking forward to camping, and once they come back it is all they will talk about."

No derby is complete without prizes. Kiguktak reeled in the longest fish herself for $450, while Vanessa Ipeelie won the same amount when she caught the heaviest at around four kilograms.

Three people also split the $500 prize for "secret size" according to Patey.