COEUR d’ALENE — Silver Valley fisherman Bret Hojem was the top angler at the Lake Coeur d’Alene Angler’s Association’s 35th annual Big One Derby competition last week.
Hojem, a longtime member of the LCAA, caught the 13.54-pound Chinook salmon at 6:30 on Saturday night after a few tough days of fishing.
“It was a hard tournament with some hard fishing,” Hojem said. “I’ve been fishing this tournament for like 27 or 28 years now and never won it until now, so that was pretty exciting.”
Hojem found it slightly amusing that his top prize fish was the smallest fish ever to crown a champion, but with the aforementioned tough conditions, he is very proud of his accomplishment.
Windy conditions made the water exceptionally choppy, which can be disastrous for outboard motors.
Hojem hadn’t even planned on entering this year, but with a little parental prompting, he joined a tournament that he would eventually end up winning.
“My dad talked me into fishing the derby this year with him, but then something came up and he couldn’t go,” Hojem said with a chuckle. “So I was out there with him checking in every 10 minutes to tell me what to do. I still had a pretty good time though.”
These derby competitions are taken very seriously and competitors are required to follow very stringent guidelines throughout the event to ensure that fish are caught within the boundaries of the competition, as well as the parameters of the rules itself.
Rules like: an angler may enter two fish per day and those fish must be weighed the same day caught.
All fish must be weighed in at one of the designated weigh stations. Meaning that competitors like Hojem have to be picky about the fish they decide to have weighed.
For his efforts, Hojem netted a cool $1,000 prize for the top fish.
The Lake Coeur d’Alene Angler’s Association is a nonprofit fishing club that was established in 1990 by a group of anglers who had hopes of promoting and enhancing Lake Coeur d’Alene fisheries.
Now, with more than 500 members, the club hosts monthly meetings to discuss issues relevant to maintaining and preserving the fishery.