Dozens of donations were received from various community partners for the first of what organizers now assume will be an annual event after the response to the first one held Saturday at Robert Ostler Park.

‘I can’t see it being a one-off’

Organizers say turnout for first city-wide fishing derby bodes well for it to become an annual event

Cody Johnstone of Campbell River may have technically won the grand prize of $5,000 cash by landing a 28-pound 10 ounce spring on Saturday, but the real winner of the first Royal LePage Advance Realty Campbell River Salmon Derby was the town itself.

Over 700 people registered for the derby, catching even the organizers off guard – in a good way.

“That was much better than we expected,” says Advance Realty branch manager Brian Watkins with a smile. “Optimistically, we were saying that if we got 400 we’d be happy.”

While the people bringing in the fish out on the water were the ones up for the prizes donated by the community, the real winners of the weekend, Watkins says, were the charities attached to the event.

“The real big beneficiaries of this will be the Campbell River Salmon Foundation and the (Royal Lepage) Shelter Foundation.” Watkins says. “They will get significantly more than we had hoped to be able to give them. We don’t know exactly what that number will be yet, but I think there’s certainly $30,000-plus in donation money.”

Which bodes well for the derby’s chances at continuing into the future.

“I can’t see it being a one-off,” Watkins says with a smile. “We’re pretty comfortable that we’ll do this again next year.”

That’s not to say it went off without a hitch, as the saying goes. The hitches, however, aren’t anything that can’t be overcome.

“There will be a few little things that we might do a little bit differently,” Watkins admits. “We’ll go a little heavier on the entertainment, I think, and we had some structural issues with getting the leaderboard mounted, that kind of thing. We might bring in another golf cart for convenience.”

Thankfully the weather turned Saturday just in time for the derby. In the morning it looked like it wasn’t going to be a pleasant day to be in a park waiting for people to arrive with fish to weigh, let alone be out on the water in a boat, but the skies opened up in the best possible way and the rain held off until the final fish was weighed about 5 p.m.

“We thought for sure we were going to get rained on, but we definitely lucked out,” Watkins says. “It was just such a great day.”

Steve Beckett secured second place in the event with a catch of 26-pounds eight ounces and third place went to Don Nicholas, who held the lead most of the day with his early weigh-in of 26-pounds one ounce.

Another angler poses enthusiastically with her catch at this year’s Royal LePage Advance Realty Campbell River Salmon Derby.