It will be an unfamiliar site on Saturday, Feb. 4 at Muskrat Lake near Cobden.
The annual Cobden Civitan Fishing Derby from has been pushed back from Feb. 4 to Feb. 18 due to unsafe ice conditions.
The postponement was necessary in terms of public safety. The announcement was made following a Cobden Civitan Club’s Fishing Derby Committee meeting on Jan. 24. At the time of the announcement, the average ice depth was between six to 10 inches and 18 inches of ice depth is needed.
Since the first hole was drilled into the lake in 2010, the average crowd of more than 1,000 people have come together not only to enjoy some ice-fishing, but they have helped raise tens of thousands of dollars for some local organizations such as Hospice Renfrew, Robbie Dean Centre and many others.
For motorists driving along Highway 17 at Cobden, it is usually a site to behold on the first Saturday in February. It is not unusual to see between 1,000 to 1,500 people on the ice surface walking to and from one of the hundreds of vehicles parked beside a fishing hut. The lake, which is just over 16 kilometers in length, provides one of Renfrew County’s most recognizable and popular winter tourist events not only for seasoned anglers, but it is promoted as a family event.
The decision not to cancel, but to postpone the derby is not the first time the Civitan Club has been forced to deal with circumstances beyond their control, and in extreme cases, the event has in fact been cancelled.
Luckily, the 2020 derby was held less than a month before the region, and most of Canada was locked down as the early stages of the COVID-19 pandemic wreaked havoc on every major indoor and outdoor event beginning in March. Those restrictions continued well throughout the year and most of 2022.
The club hosted a virtual derby in 2021 due to COVID and returned to a physical event last year, with an estimated 1,800 people taking part. Although the event was billed as a virtual event, the club still managed to attract enough sponsors to have more than $10,000 worth of prizes for the contestants.
In 2022, the event almost returned to its early roots when more than 1,800 people signed up to fish, but in accordance with COVID restrictions in place at the time, the post-event gathering of all participants was not held, but the organizers did continue the tradition of drawing winner’s names of various prizes and cheque presentations to local recipients was held off-site.
This year, the organizers are keeping their fingers crossed for heavy snowfall and colder temperatures so the ice is ready for a crowd which will likely surpass the usual 1,000 participants. As of mid-January, 621 tickets had been sold, which is on par with earlier successful derbies.
The Cobden Civitan Facebook site has kept participants updated on the situation by posting regular notices on the status of the ice and prizes that continued to be donated.
“The committee will continue to monitor the situation and on Feb. 13 will determine if ice conditions are safe for the fishing portion of the Derby to proceed on Feb. 18,” a posting stated. “Advanced tickets will be on sale at ticket centres and online until 4 p.m. on Thursday, Feb. 16. Tickets will be also sold the day of the derby."
If on Feb. 13 ice conditions are deemed unsafe to proceed, the format will be changed to draws only. Purchased derby tickets will be part of the 9 Fish Cash Prizes draw as well as the 17 Prizes Draw. The 50/50 draw will also take place at this time.
The club has designated Hospice Renfrew, the Robbie Dean Counselling Centre, ConnectWell Community and Victim Crisis Renfrew County as recipients for the proceeds.