Mirror fishing columnist Don Daniels says the boating public should be ready for the possibility of 500 extra boats on the water Saturday.

How to win a salmon derby…

With the first of what organizers hope will turn into an annual Campbell River-wide fishing derby happening this weekend, Mirror resident fishing expert Don Daniels says there’s no magic formula for landing the one that will net you the $5,000 grand prize but he does have some tips and predictions, along with some advice for how to make your day on the water go more smoothly with that many people out there.

Right now, being early in the season, most of the fish out in the channel are from ‘keeper-size’ to the ‘mid teens,’ he says – meaning pounds.

“There are some out there reaching into the 20s,” he says, but he thinks most of the ones being caught this weekend will be under that, adding that he feels if someone lands one in the range of 26-28 lbs, they’ll likely claim the title.

So what’s the secret to doing that?

“You’ve gotta be in the water to catch a fish,” Daniels says. “That’s it.”

While people who fish regularly will all have their favourite locations to fish, and know what kinds of lures have worked for them in the past, Daniels says, there’s no guarantees when it comes to fishing.

“A lot of people are saying the fishing guides are going to win the derby. Well, not necessarily,” Daniels says. “There have been derbies where people who have never fished before go out and win the derby. It happens.”

What’s most important, he says, is just the experience of being a part of it.

“Well, that and keeping safety in mind,” he adds. “Lifejackets and etiquette and that kind of thing will go a long way to making your time out there as good as it can be.”

If there are 500 or more boats out there on the water trying to land a salmon for the derby – which Daniels says is a very real possibility with a $5,000 grand prize on the line – proper etiquette is important.

The first place this needs to be practiced, he says, is on the boat ramps.

“The public boat ramps, all the marinas, are going to be busy,” he says. “You’ve gotta be geared up before you get to the ramp, get your boat into the water and get out of there. It’s like standing in line at the grocery store. People get frustrated when people take their time and hold up traffic, whatever that traffic is.”

Once out on the water, proper etiquette is for everyone to give everyone else a decent amount of space. Yes, there will be packs of boats following each other around out there trying to find pools of fish, but the last thing that needs to happen is for lines to get all tied up and for people to be yelling at each other about it, Daniels says.

“You get a high concentration of boats, you’ve gotta give each other space,” Daniels says. “There’s always gonna be incidents. When people are using down riggers, which most of them will be, lines are going to get tangled up if people aren’t going to give each other space. That’s when the yelling starts.”

Part of that conflict should be mitigated by the fact that officials, including the Department of Fisheries and Oceans and RCMP, will be out there watching, Daniels says. Whenever there’s a high concentration of people fishing, like there will be this weekend, the officials stay vigilant.

“They’re not going to be checking every fishing licence and measuring every catch,” Daniels says, “but they’ll be out there keeping their eyes on things. If you’re not breaking any rules, though, you don’t have anything to worry about, right?”

But the event isn’t only about catching fish, despite it being a fishing derby. Mark Ranniger with Royal Lepage Advance Realty, the title sponsor of the event, said that when he and Deanna Collins came up with the event, the idea was to, yes, fill a gap that needed filling – the lack of a community-wide fishing derby – but also to have the community come out and enjoy each other’s company and give something back, as well.

“It’s going to be an all-day thing,” Ranniger told the Mirror back during the planning stages. “There are going to be things for the kids to do there, some very, very cool prizes for the kids, we’re going to have a bunch of food trucks there, we’re hopefully going to have a Bounce-a-Rama and those kinds of fun things,” not to mention a stage set up with live music throughout the day.