The winner of the largest prize package ever awarded in the history of Nipawin Pike Festival received the keys to his brand new pontoon boat on Thursday, July 14.
Last summer Gerry Smerchynski of Regina caught the tagged pike that matched the 2010 Crestliner Suncast pontoon boat, valued at $25,000.
The prize package, provided by Thomas Motors of Nipawin and Melfort, also includes a 40 horsepower Honda engine and an EZ Loader trailer. In addition he received a $250 instant cash prize for catching a current year tagged pike.
The 73-year-old Smerchynski has been unable to attend a prize presentation until now as a result of health problems. He underwent heart valve surgery seven weeks ago and is still on the mend. But he plans to get back on the water in his new boat before the end of this year's festival.
"I'm hoping to," he said. "I'm kind of at a standstill right now. But I can start fishing about Sept. 1 and this goes to the end of September."
He has been fishing here for probably 45 years and for the past 33 years he and his wife Eleanor have been returning every summer to their cottage at Tobin Lake.
"Actually it's about the only place I did fish after I found out how good the lake was," he said.
When he caught the fish with the winning tag last summer he was not actually looking for pike. They went out to catch walleye in the mouth of the river. It is a spot that he would not go to find pike.
"If somebody would have said 'I'm going out there for pike' I would have said 'Well forget it, don't even go there.' You even fool yourself sometimes when you think you know everything."
But the pike was small. He estimated its size at only 14 inches.
"It wasn't very big but it sure had a nice tag on its back," he laughed.
To show his appreciation towards the festival, he has become a festival sponsor. Festival Chairperson Doug Hidlebaugh said even people who are not fishing can buy a $5 ticket to show their support for the event and to be entered in the automatic prize draw. He felt certain the festival will benefit from the fact that the main prize from last year's event has been won.
"This prize is definitely an incentive for people to get out and buy more tickets and fish in our tournament," he said.
The first tagged pike from this year's 42nd annual Pike Festival has already been caught by Brent Lindman of Nipawin. He attended the pontoon boat presentation at Thomas Motors on July 14 to congratulate Smerchynski.
Lindman said he enters the festival every year.
"Being local of course you've got to," he remarked. "The Pike Festival is a really good thing for Nipawin and supporting it is just part of the gig."
It was the first time he caught a tagged pike.
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