Friendship, Fun and Fishing at the Annual By the Bay Fishing Derby

Photo: Youth participants in the 2023 By the Bay Fishing Derby.
By Kelly Burgess, Bruce Peninsula Press

Sunshine, with a bit of wind, provided a great environment for local anglers at the Annual By the Bay Fishing Derby this year. Although there were slightly fewer participants this year, a whopping 330 fish were caught compared to last year’s 228 total. The annual derby brought out people of all ages hoping to catch the biggest fish in the Perch, Largemouth Bass, Smallmouth Bass, Pike, Salmon, and Trout categories. 

Todd May of Pike Bay caught the largest Smallmouth Bass in the adult category this year weighing in at 4.6 pounds. Although he enjoys fishing, he and his wife Yvonne, who are now full-time residents, love what the derby brings to the community. “This derby is absolutely fantastic. It is so great for the community. It brings out so many people new to the area too. It is so wonderful to see all of these kids participating. A big thank you to Brad for running this.”

Organizer Brad also showed his gratitude to his family and all the people who help out and donate prizes to the Derby every year. He also appreciates all the support he gets from Sarah and Brain Carson, his daughter and son-in-law, who now own “By the Bay” and host the event. Sarah and Brian are happy to continue this tradition. “It’s becoming bigger and bigger all the time because so many people step up to help,” Sara explained.

There is a lot more catch and release now at the Derby because of the environment. Prizes are awarded just for entering, not necessarily for catching the biggest fish. This of course encourages this environmentally friendly practice. 

The Derby is also a special event for many families and friends to gather annually. Brad’s grandson Hudson Pettigrew meets up with his friend Keegan Blackman from Brantford to fish yearly in the Derby. The two, who have been friends for three years while visiting up here, both love fishing and spending time together every year. Ten-year-old Keegan explained, “We love catching fish as it is so relaxing.” 

This year was also exciting for Rob Gialet of British Columbia who caught his first fish (a 3.03-pound Smallmouth Bass) in Ontario at this year’s derby. Rob has been visiting the Pike Bay area for several years after meeting Shari Ready whose family had a place up here since she was young. They bought a place of their own now in Pike Bay and even though they live in beautiful B.C., they love spending lots of time in Pike Bay.

This local derby isn’t just about fishing, but about bringing people together and bringing out so many young people for an adventure in nature. Next year will provide another great experience for so many people from all over with the generosity of so many in this amazing community.