Fishing tournaments are a fun way to change up your typical day on the water. It adds new challenges, some pressure, and the chance to win some cash or prizes while putting your skills to the test. Unfortunately, where there is potential for winnings there are those willing to try and cheat the system to get them. Last summer (2022) there were two anglers caught stuffing weights in fish to achieve a higher total weight for walleye tournaments on Lake Erie and now another shocking discovery in a tournament series here in Ontario.
The Top 50 Pike Series is tournament trail in Ontario where anglers compete to catch and "weigh in" the longest fish within the regulations of the water body they are on. For example - tournaments in Zone 14 (Georgian Bay) limits anglers to two fish each with maximum of one fish over 86 cm while in Zone 15 the limit is six fish each with no size restrictions, and in Zone 14 (Lake Nipissing) a limit of six fish each with a maximum of 2 over 61 cm and of which only 1 over 86 cm. Depending on the water body the event is taking place on the strategy changes! It's not always about catching the biggest fish but catching the closest to the imposed limits and one big fish. In such tournaments catching a fish (or multiple) at 60 cm in zone 14 for instance helps to maximize the anglers score and leads to a better shot at winning. In all bodies of water dead fish penalties do apply.
This seasons Classic, year end 2-day finale event held on September 2nd + 3rd, found not one but two teams suspected of cheating after the first day weigh in. You may be wondering how someone can cheat in an event that is decided by measuring length of live fish. In this case it is not about adding length but making sure you don't use up your few fish allowed over the size limits with something small! Both teams were suspected of cutting the tails on their fish to ensure they did not go over the 61 cm limit and maximize their score! Without definitive proof and teams denying the allegations the teams were allowed to compete on the second day of the event.
Within the weeks following the event polygraph tests will be conducted.
Due to speculation of tail cutting incidents prior to the Classic tournament officials were directed to take photos of each catch on the measuring board for review if necessary. Pike normally have rounded fin tips and the photos below show a pointed edge that is too clean to have been caused naturally. Perhaps these fish were caught with tails cut from other anglers in the past but this would be an unlikely situation. While a full investigation is yet to be completed to determine validity of the allegations and photos below it is not looking good for the anglers involved.
While the now infamous "walleye cheaters" took advantage of the tournament rules that allow fish brought in to be dead and kept or donated to food banks (not typical in other tournaments where fish must be kept alive) they did not do any more harm to the fish than would have already been done by the tournament. The Top 50 cheaters intentionally harmed live fish they planned to release after "weigh in". This shows an incredible amount of disrespect to the sport, fellow competitors, and our resources. While acts like this are against the law it also goes against the unwritten code of all sportsman/women of respecting our nature, and our resources above self interest. This act was selfish, shameful, and from a stance of pure greed despite the prize up for grabs being small in comparison to the fines and penalties that could be dealt out. We would expect to see major ramifications for these anglers not only from the tournament committee but also legal action from MNR should the investigation show the accusations are true.
To experience a day of fishing on the water with us be sure to check out our YouTube channel at the link below. This 10 fish day will be up in the coming weeks:
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