Nfld. & Labrador

Dildo Pond fishing derby results annulled; entrants to receive refunds

After nearly two weeks of debate and controversy, organizers of the Dildo Pond fishing derby have decided to annul all results and refund participants.

Still no official word on whether charges will be laid against derby contestant Owen White

This is the fish that is stirring up controversy at the annual Dildo Pond fishing derby in Trinity Bay. DFO says it is an Atlantic salmon. (Facebook)

After nearly two weeks of debate and controversy, organizers of the Dildo Pond fishing derby have decided to annul all results and refund participants their $25 entry fees.

The more than $30,000 in prizes, including a Honda side-by-side all-terrain vehicle, will not be claimed.

Organizer Terry Snow of the Buy & Sell Magazine announced the decision in a statement Thursday afternoon, saying there was no fair way to award prizes.

Snow was not available for an interview.

"This isn't the outcome we'd planned for, but it's what's fair for all participants," the statement read.

It's the latest development in a quirky dispute that erupted just minutes after Owen White of New Harbour pulled a nearly six-pound fish from a hole in the ice on Dildo Pond on Valentine's Day.

It was the largest entry in the derby — by far — but questions about the species of fish surfaced at the same moment White hauled in his catch.

It took 12 days and DNA testing for experts with federal Fisheries and Oceans to officially confirm the fish is an Atlantic salmon, which is not eligible for the competition, and cannot be legally retained out of season.

Several other top entries are also being tested by DFO, since they are also thought to be salmon.

Brown and brook trout eligible

The rules clearly state that only brown trout and brook trout are eligible.

Snow said his best option was to cancel the derby, since declaring a winner would be very difficult.

Owen White of New Harbour landed a fish that he thought was a brown trout. (Eddy Kennedy/CBC)

He said many contestants did not enter eligible fish, thinking they did not have a chance against the leading entries. And with so much debate over whether the entries were salmon or trout, Snow said awarding the prizes would only further the debate.

Snow said there were "hundreds and hundreds" of participants, and they are asked to call the magazine to arrange for a refund.

Earlier this week, Snow announced he would conduct a poll of the hundreds of derby participants to see if they agreed with awarding the prizes to the anglers who caught the three largest fish, regardless of the species.

Snow says he discontinued the poll on the advice of DFO, but noted "100 per cent insisted we adhere to the rules."

Meanwhile, questions persist about whether White should face charges, with DFO saying Thursday "the matter is still under review."

DFO clarified Thursday that the fish landed by White is not a landlocked salmon, or ouananiche, as many people have suggested, but a sea-going Atlantic salmon.

DFO verified the species through DNA testing. 

But many angling enthusiasts continue to contact CBC News to argue the fish is a landlocked salmon, or what has historically be known as ouananiche.

Not so, says DFO.

Legal implications for catching salmon

The distinction between a ouananiche and an Atlantic salmon is an important one because of the legal implications.

Terry Snow is the owner of the Newfoundland and Labrador Buy & Sell Magazine, which sponsors the annual fishing derby on Dildo Pond. (Ted Dillon/CBC)

The anglers guide says it's legal to catch and retain larger ouananiche during the winter trouting season, which opened Feb. 1 and ends April 15.

But it's not legal to retain Atlantic salmon out of season, which typically runs from June to September.

White has repeatedly stated he wanted to return the live fish to the water after it was weighed, but was prevented from doing so by derby organizers.

When contacted Thursday, White said he is "not allowed" to comment, and confirmed this is on the advice of a lawyer.

Meanwhile, DFO said in a statement it is available to work with any derby organizers to ensure they are compliant with regulations, and operate in a manner that ensures conservation and protection of fish stocks.

About the Author

Terry Roberts is a journalist with CBC's bureau in St. John's.

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