The N.W.T. community is celebrating the 25th Hannah Stewart Memorial Loche Derby
Originally Published by CBC News, November 20, 2016
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.”
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.
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.”
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Photo courtesy of James Blake