Hooked on salmon derby

Pauline Hedberg won the 2013 Sarnia Salmon Derby with this 18.26 pounder. The B.C. resident is returning next week to defend her title.; Bluewater Anglers Photo

Coming back to Sarnia to fish in the annual Salmon Derby had been on the wish list of B.C. resident Pauline Hedberg for years.

Actually winning the derby by boating a monster salmon was not part of the dream.

Yet that’s exactly what happened when Hedberg hooked an 18.26 pounder in the first hour of the first day of last year’s tournament.

She was in a boat on the U.S. side of the lake, near Lakeport. With her were husband Hakan, her brother and Sarnia resident Dave Stewart, and his friend Bob Daly.

“We didn’t even have all of our lines in the water yet and I said, ‘Fish on!’” she told The Journal from West Vancouver.

“I’m a novice so I said, ‘Dave, do you want to take this and reel it?’ And he said, no, no, you do it.”

The salmon held up as the largest caught in the 10-day tournament, netting Hedberg a big trophy, bragging rights and $5,000, which she split with her boat-mates.

“It was just a magical trip. It’s always been on my bucket list to go back to Sarnia for the derby,” said Hedberg, who has fond memories of living here one year as a teenager.

The 38th annual salmon derby organized by Bluewater Anglers could draw up to 1,000 anglers. Many will come from out of town, boosting the bottom line of restaurants, hotels and tackle suppliers.

“Our waterfront is one of our greatest assets and it’s a wonderful way for people from outside the area to enjoy it,” said Vicky Praill, a Tourism Sarnia-Lambton co-ordinator.

May is also traditionally a slow tourism period, which makes the visitor influx even more important, she added.

“We’re very happy that the Bluewater Anglers put so much work into this event, and do it year after year.”

The 2014 edition runs May 2 to 11 with upwards of $35,000 in cash and prizes to be won.

Proceeds from event, which features 50 sponsor and countless volunteers, help run the club’s fish hatchery under the Blue Water Bridge.

Hedberg was fishing in the boat of Bluewater Anglers treasurer Bob Daly that day.

“She always wanted to fish for salmon with her big brother,” Daly said with a chuckle. “And she sure did.”

Hedberg said she’s eager to try her luck a second time and has already booked her flight to Sarnia.

“I can’t wait,” she said. “We’ll be on the dock for opening day, and this year I think my brother will catch the big one.”

Tickets, $25, are available at Bluewater Padded Accents, Precision Power Sports, Sarnia RV, The Outdoorsman, Buck’s Baits, Canadian Tire and the weigh-in station.

For more, call Bob or Valarie at 519-542-3159.

– George Mathewson