How the French Creek Tyee Club Conquered COVID-19

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Fishing French Creek at dawn

No one planned for a pandemic. The good folks who fish French Creek religiously are no exception. In fact, it was long before COVID-19 made its way to Canada when the idea to have a new derby in French Creek was already being formulated. Even though social distancing and self-isolation caused the entire world to retract, it didn’t stop Brad Hay from realizing his dream of building a derby. We finally caught up with Brad who’s been working up north mining, and he laid it out how this all came to be …

IFM: What inspired you to come up with the idea for the derby?

Brad: As you know from my area reports I write for Island Fisherman magazine, I fish French Creek a lot. It’s the most special place on Earth to me and I’m reminded of that every time I get the chance to go out. I wanted to share and celebrate this special place with others who enjoy it, and those who haven’t fished it yet. You really have to experience it—it’s the only way you’d “get it”. I wanted to get people excited about something in the face of all the world’s negativity, and the closures the public fishery. The idea of a catch and release derby ticked a lot of boxes.

French Creek Chinook

IFM: How did it work? What were the rules?

Brad: It’s really quite simple. Tickets were sold to participate. Contestants would take a fish picture with a measuring tape (length and girth), and we’d calculate the weight based on our formulae:

French Creek Tyee Club Fish Weight Calculator

Weight (lb) = [length X (girth X girth)] / 750

Fish weight calculator

If the calculation worked out to 30 lb or over, you are in for the French Creek Tyee Club and could pick up a hoodie at our generous sponsor, Parksville Oceanside Chevrolet (just ask for Andy Lankester).

We ran the derby from March to September in 2020 and we plan to do the same for 2021.

IFM: And…how did it go?

Brad: Oh man, what a crazy season for fishing! The biggest fish reported was approx. 46 lb caught by Barb Farmington, with several others like Paul Uren (first to join the club), Nolan Terris, Jamie McInnes, and a huge notable mention for Darrell Jobb who guided four Tyee catches!

Darrell Jobb

Besides all the fun, the French Creek Tyee Club was able to see $1,750 raised for the Marion Baker Hatchery right here in Parksville. We couldn’t have done it without all the help from Andy and the whole team at Oceanside. It’s really special when you can put something into play that safely brings people together, distracts them from the problems of the world (like COVID-19) and the change in fishing regulations, and are also able to generate real money for a worthy cause.

Marion Baker Hatchery egg take

Andy Lankester: I want to send a big shout out to Cam and Kari from the French Creek Store for selling the tickets and managing the cash. Brad and I just wanted to create something that would be fun, with not too many rules, and at the same time support local salmon enhancement. We are avid fisherman at Harris Oceanside GM, and the team is really supportive of this project.

Andy Lankester (left) and Brad Hay (right), handing Herman Vanderbyl of the Marion Baker Fish Hatchery a $1,750 donation check from the derby

IFM: Surely running a derby for the first time there must be something you’d have changed.

Brad: Yeah, that’s a really good point—there sure is.

I’d triple the stock of my favorite plug that got destroyed by ‘hawgs’, ‘lunkers’, and ‘footballs’ all season long! There are so many big fish that go by French Creek, I’m planning on getting a hoodie for every day of the season!

Tomic RVP2 Series #12119 “Game Changer”

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