How the Fishing For Fun Derby Started
It all started with a simple request to replace a fishing rod that had been broken accidently at a boat launch while camping. Then we got talking to the camp host about the Fishing for Fun (FFF) group we had just started. It only consisted of a few members at the time, but we told the host about what we do in the community and the events we run. Eventually, the host asked if I had ever considered running a fishing derby. I had never even been in a derby—still haven’t—let alone organized one myself! But I enjoy a challenge and agreed to do it without a second thought. We started planning it all out—the legalities, the rules, waivers, everything that goes on behind the scenes—and were on our way to our first annual Nanaimo Lakes Derby in 2016.
Onsite Events & Contests
We started out with a bang, filling up the 35 sites we held for our group. Over the weekend we had a pancake breakfast, our Superheroes contest, and our Saturday Night Family Hot Dog Roast where we have a fire, hot dogs, and plenty of s’mores for families, thanks to our many amazing sponsors.
Of course, we cannot forget the “hidden squirrel,” which is a favorite activity of the attendees young and old. The “hidden squirrel” is similar to a door prize draw where I have some of my “ninjas” hide a wooden squirrel, and the prize goes to the first person to find it.
We are constantly adding new activates to the annual derby to make it bigger and better than the last one. The derby is held first weekend of June each year (June 4-6 in 2021) at the Old Mill Campground (First Lake) Nanaimo Lakes.
We have since added a Wacky Costume Contest, where prizes go to the funniest family-friendly costumes. We have also opened up Second Lake to be fished for the derby as well.
New Contest for Best Campsite
New this year we have added a Best Campsite contest where we choose a theme and give campers a $25 budget to purchase items to deck out their site. Everyone gets to vote, and you guessed it, there’s yet another prize.
We also feature an Adults Derby, where you are required to use a 3’6″ or under rod and the tackle given to you at registration.
Fishing for Fun’s Biggest Annual Fundraiser
The derby is our biggest annual fundraiser, helping us with all the events we run through the year, and the gear we purchase to donate to local families who need the support. Each ticket will allow you to weigh in one fish per day for entire weekend. Tickets are $20 for adults and $10 for kids, and you can purchase up to four tickets per person to give you the ability to weigh in more fish. Our derbies are all about trying to make it as fun as we possibly can for everyone who comes out. We have had families come from as far south as Victoria and as far north as Campbell River to attend our derby! This will be our 6th annual derby, so let’s make it one for the record books! Check out the Fishing For Fun page closer to derby time for the Best Campsite theme. Thank you for your support in our efforts to help get people out fishing.
2021’s Derby & COVID-19 Safety
All current COVID-19 rules and considerations will be in place and must be abided by at all times during the derby. Under the current provincial health order, we will be requesting everyone to register online at http://fishingforfun.ca/. Once registered, we’ll send out a package including a COVID-19 waiver. We have full systems in place for fish measurement and awarding prizes to avoid gatherings.
Stories from Attendees
I have been taking my kids fishing since they were babies. We have so many awesome memories in the boat and along the shores. These are great times to share with your loves one, and I feel very lucky to be able to do this with my kids. I know that not everyone has the ability to do this with their families.
When we discovered Fishing for Fun and Mike Lawrence’s drive to bring this pastime to people who are less fortunate, we knew right away that this was a program worth supporting. Mike Lawrence is a great guy, bringing happiness to countless people and asking for nothing in return.
We started attending the annual fishing derby five or six years ago, knowing it as a valuable fundraiser for FFF—we haven’t missed one since and we look forward to it every year. Mike encourages everyone to be involved in so many different ways and activities. My kids love to enter the drawing contest for the cover picture of the derby, theme camping, hot dog roasts, great activities, scavenger hunts, and of course all the tremendous fishing.
Mike manages to always offer great prizes, usually something for everyone who attends; we are very thankful and lucky to have this society operating in our area. I can see the love of this sport growing among children and adults alike thanks to FFF and Mike’s efforts. It’s awesome to see it expanding into other communities and grow along our coast.
– Rick Fleming
We started going to the Derby after our long-time friend Rick Fleming told us how much fun they had. Our granddaughter Charlie is also friends with Rick’s daughter Maggie, so we took her along with us. It turned out Charlie loves fishing.
She won the derby a few years back, and still talks about it to this day. Now it’s a must-do yearly event for us and her. As we start packing up after the derby, our thoughts immediately turn to the next one. “What day is it going to be? Next year I’m going to find the hidden squirrel. I’m going to catch the biggest fish! What site are we going to be in?”
My heart swells every time I think of that moment when she ran up to me and said, “I caught a bigger fish than grandpa!” That was the year she won and so did we—we have a granddaughter who likes to hang out with us!
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