Angler vowing legal action if fish disqualified from Dildo Pond derby
Organizer believes DFO will declare two largest fish as salmon, which makes them ineligible
The controversy surrounding the annual fishing derby on Dildo Pond appears to be heating up, with the angler who landed the largest fish promising legal action if his entry is disqualified.
"Oh, for sure," Owen White told CBC News when asked Wednesday if he'll launch a legal challenge.
White hauled a 5.6-pound fish through a hole in the ice on Dildo Pond on Feb. 14, the largest entry in the annual Blaketown derby, and controversy soon followed.
Is it a trout, which is eligible, or a salmon, which is not?
The fish is currently being analysed by experts with the federal Department of Fisheries and Oceans, and a final result is expected by Friday, at the earliest, said a DFO spokesperson.
Two entries under scrutiny
The second largest fish is also being tested.
The organizer of the derby, Buy & Sell Magazine owner Terry Snow, acknowledged Wednesday that it's not looking good for White's fish, or the second place entry.
"My sense from it is that they are going to rule them as being salmon," said Snow, referring to conversations he's had with DFO officials.
"Salmon are not permitted in the derby. Therefore we'll move on to the next person in the line to get the prizes."
DFO has stated it will not release a result until it is certain of the species. That's because there are more than $30,000 worth of prizes up for grabs, including a Honda side-by-side vehicle.
The rules clearly state that only brook trout and brown trout are eligible, and specifically rules out eels.
The specific mention of eels is in reference to another derby controversy from years back, when a judge ruled in favour of an angler who landed one of these snake-like water dwellers because it is a species of fish.
'It should count'
White believes he'll also get a favourable ruling if he is forced to take legal action.
He'll argue that organizers should have known there were salmon in the pond, and should have had the expertise on hand to identify his fish.
What's more, he said the rules should have stated that salmon were ineligible.
"This is a fish, the largest fish, and it should count," White said.
Terry Snow acknowledged that lessons have been learned.
He's hoping to have more experienced judges at future events, and more support from DFO.
"We always learn something from the fishing derby. Whether it's what to do or what not to do," he said.
But Snow said the rules are very clear, and salmon are not eligible.
"We were very specific on the kind of fish permitted," he said.
Meanwhile, White is now concerned about another legal pitfall. It might be legal to catch a salmon in Dildo Pond during the ice-fishing season, but anglers are not permitted to retain it.
White said he wanted to release the fish, but was stopped by organizers.
"I caught it. But I did not retain it," he said, referring to how the fish was then taken by organizers.