Lakes that typically host hundreds of happy anglers each year during the Fort Smith and Fort Chipewyan fishing derbies will be left alone this year due to unsafe conditions and health problems, according to organizers.
Richard Mercredi, who has been organizing the annual Fort Smith derby for years, says heavy snowfalls have resulted in widespread overflow that will make it dangerous for snowmobilers making the trek out to Jackfish, Blackman and Natawa Lakes.
Overflow occurs when heavy snow breaks the ice, pushing water up through the cracks where it pools under the snow and can be difficult to see. Deep overflow can cause snowmobiles to get stuck.
Mercredi said people have already been getting stuck out at the lakes, which are a two-hour snowmobile ride north of Fort Smith.
With the derby typically scheduled for the third weekend of March, Mercredi says it is highly unlikely conditions will improve before then. The committee is now looking to next year.
“It’s getting pretty late now,” he said. “We don’t have much time to regroup.”
This would have been the three-day derby’s 23rd year.
Fort Chipewyan’s fishing derby was also cancelled this year due to health problems among the organizing committee. The annual event usually draws hundreds, offering up big prizes for the top catches.