Aklavik man 'jiggles' a whopping 1-metre-long loche fish

James Blake was left speechless after he caught a huge loche for the 25th annual loche derby in Aklavik, N.W.T.

The N.W.T. community is celebrating the 25th Hannah Stewart Memorial Loche Derby

James Blake says he was speechless after catching this massive loche, also known as burbot. (submitted by James Blake)

James Blake from Aklavik, N.W.T., was just about to leave the ice with his two fishing buddies when he felt a tug on his hook.

Ten seconds later, he pulled out the biggest, heaviest loche (also known as burbot or mariah) he's ever caught.

The slimy, scaleless catch was a whopping 1.12 metres long and weighed just under 12.7 kilograms. That's taller and heavier than most average toddlers.

"We just couldn't believe it, me and my two buddies," says Blake.

"Everyone was kind of speechless. We just kept staring at it and we just couldn't get over the size of it."

The loche was so heavy that Blake's hook almost ripped off the fish's whisker-lined lip.

"It was hanging on by a little piece of the lip when we pulled it out." 
Aklavik is a hamlet of around 600 people located in the Northwest Territories' Mackenzie Delta (CBC)

That's Blake's best entry to Aklavik's annual Hannah Stewart Memorial Loche Derby, which measures entries for the heaviest, longest, smallest and lightest loche. 

It's the 25th anniversary of the derby, which was named after the derby's founder, Aklavik's then-recreation coordinator Hannah Stewart.

Participants use a technique called 'jiggling' where quick, jerky hand movements move the baited hook up and down through the ice.

Persistence pays off

So what's Blake's secret?

"Well, no secrets," he says with a chuckle. "I just use the same thing as everybody else."   

But maybe his persistence is the key. Loche typically come out when it gets darker, says Blake.

Blake's daughter jigging for loche at this year's derby, with the family's coney fish catches in the background. (submitted by James Blake)
He fished every night for five straight days at the beginning of the derby without much luck.

"I quit for about week until I went out… when I caught that fish."

Bigger prizes this year

The derby has attracted people from within the community and without, according to J.D. Storr from the Aklavik Recreation Committee, which is running the derby.

"Everybody's been out fishing and you see a lot of creeks are always full of fishers," says Storr.

To celebrate the quarter-century anniversary of the derby, prizes are larger than previous years.

Each category will award three prizes: the gold prize is $300 and a trophy; silver wins $200 and $100 for bronze. Every participant will be entered into a door prize draw for 45 gallons of gas and for five individual fishing hooks.

Participants are able to enter as many times as they want, but must bring a different fish every time they measure, says Storr.

Two previous records that Blake's monster fish beat are from 2014 and 2004. The longest loche in 2014 was 1.07 metres, and the heaviest was 12 kilograms. In 2004, the longest was 1.09 metres and the heaviest, 10.6 kilograms.

The derby runs until Nov. 22.

files from Wanda McLeod


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