A long-standing fishing tournament is taking a hiatus this winter, with hopes it will be back to flood the lake with anglers next year, but organizers say the break has nothing to due with ice conditions on Kempenfelt Bay.
Formerly known as the Simcoe County Home Builders Association Ice Fishing Tournament, the event was taken over late last year by the Rotary Club of Barrie and the Kempenfelt Rotary Club.
The fishing tournament was to be held on Feb. 15, but a memo to donors, participants, anglers, volunteers and contributors says the event will not be happening.
"We regret to inform you that as a result of transition and timing, the 2020 Ice Fishing Tournament has been postponed," says the memo. "Delivering the best possible experience to you, sponsors and anglers, is our goal — an experience you have all come to expect."
Organizers said "all efforts were made," but they're unable to bring the desired "level of excellence" to this year’s tournament.
A "thank-you incentive" will be provided for the 2021 tournament to those who registered for this year's events.
BarrieToday made several inquiries about the specifics behind the event’s postponement, only to be told by event representative Louise Jones that the decision was a difficult one and had nothing to do with the state of the ice.
“The condition of the lake did not play a part in the decision; it’s too early to predict what the state of the lake will be,” Jones said. “It was a very difficult decision.”
The memo stated that a refund will be issued to all anglers in the next few days. Further updates will also be provided in the coming weeks concerning the incentive for 2020 registrants, as well as more information for the 2021 tournament.
During the event, participants have four hours to catch and have their fish weighed in, with hopes of landing the biggest catch.
In the 14-year-long run of the event, it has raised more than $420,000 for local charities and is popular in part due to the many prizes that can be won. More than $70,000 in prizes are given away, which last year included a boat, motor and trailer, as well as an ATV and a snowmobile.
Don Luchkiw, owner of Bear Point Fish Hut Rentals, which has been operating in Innisfil for nearly 10 years, says the lake ice is fine for walking on and even has some of his huts out there.
"It is about five to seven inches right now. Good for walking on, which is a big improvement from a week ago," Luchkiw said.
While Kempenfelt Bay has frozen over earlier than late-January in the past, Luckiw says he isn't worried about business this fishing season.
"So far, business hasn't been all that bad," he said. "Truth be told, as long as I can get out there by Feb. 1, I'll be happy."