Trolling for the big one
Written by Toronto Sun   
Tuesday, 11 July 2006 17:49

You could hear the rough music of the city at play even while floating in 60 metres of Lake Ontario water nearly a kilometre south of Yonge St. and the downtown towers.

The cacophony of traffic snarled by too many street closures. The grinding from streetcars, the cries from hucksters and vendors.

Out around our 12-metre cruiser, Sure Thing, sailboats swooped like dragonflies, their big sisters glided by while power boats puttered and roared.

The fish weren't biting, so there was too much time, darn it, to tell fishing stories (meaning lies) and to remind each other that despite the thousands cavorting across the cool waters, the largest recreational activity is still fishing.

This is the world's largest freshwater fishing derby, the Great Ontario Salmon Derby, which has the Canadian Sportsmen's Shows and the Toronto Sun as major sponsors.

To continue the blatant plug, it began Saturday and runs to Aug. 26 with $1.4 million in prizes. (And I wish you better luck than we had.)

The prizes are so nice that Walter Oster, the tournament director, has had contestants stuff fish with lead and chunks of ice (which resulted in fraud convictions) -- and he forced one woman to take a lie detector test, which she flunked.

Our failure became embarrassing. It was two hours before Monte Kwinter got a bite, the senior provincial minister who runs just about everything that protects us -- from police to fire fighters to coroners to prison guards --which means he doesn't get time to sail his 12-metre boat.

It took him a minute a pound to land a 15-pound chinook salmon (fishermen don't do metric).

And after Julian Fantino got it safely in the net -- our former police chief just loves to throw a net over things -- Kwinter's daughter, a talented artist named Lisa, gave a sigh of relief that we hadn't been skunked.

Fantino is now Ontario's commissioner of emergency management and works for Kwinter -- meaning it would be dangerous not to have netted that salmon -- and he laughs off rumours he will run for Toronto mayor, saying, "I'm not running for mayor, I'm running from the mayor."

Take that, David Miller!

I said it would have made a better column if our safety specialists had flubbed the fish.

Which led them to retaliate when I landed a baby chinook and kept it because they're good eating.

Not to be outdone, Ferg Devins landed another baby which wasn't as long as his vice-president's title at Molson Canada.

Fantino observed that the big fish had moved because we were keeping their babies.

After Oster's son, Mitch, caught a three-pound rainbow, we were done.

Only four, and one was lost, which doesn't compare with the 70 pounds, 80 pounds and 97 pounds in previous years, which would cost around $500 in a fish market. (And Queen's Park keeps testing to make sure the fish are safe.)

At least we did better than the year we were skunked.

The salmon haven't gone away because another boat landed three fish over 20 pounds each.

Which is more than you can say for the U.S. tourists. Kwinter and Fantino watch the border traffic carefully and are familiar faces at functions. They say the terrorists' arrests and the increase in the value of our money and the cost of gas have crippled tourism with no relief in sight.

Although you might not have noticed with all the crowded, noisy streets

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