Brian Rutherford, right, was one of a handful that walked off with multiple honours at the annual Ponoka Fish and Game awards Feb. 3. Rutherford, with Big Game director Ray Abt, won catch and keep awards for largest burbot (4 ibs, 0.5 oz) and lake whitefish (3 lbs, 1.5 oz). Photo by Jordie Dwyer

Ponoka Fish and Game awards its members while helping with conservation

Annual night of honours is groups biggest fundraiser of the year, raises funds to help buy land

A capacity crowd enjoyed a night of fun, friends and great variety of food at the annual Ponoka Fish and Game awards.

Around 350 people jammed themselves into the Stagecoach Saloon on the Ponoka Stampede grounds Feb. 3 for the organization’s biggest fundraising event of the year. Not only was it a chance to see both young and old receive various hunting and fishing awards, but also the opportunity to try some of the meat from the game caught by hunters.

“This event draws a good cross-section of the community and it shows they support us really well,” stated big game director Ray Abt, noting the awards night is one of the bigger ones in central Alberta.

Abt added there were around 75 items donated to be part of the silent auction, ranging anywhere from $20 to $500, but he didn’t know how much would be raised.

What he was able to state was that most of the money raised during the evening is put toward either renovations of the club’s facilities or set aside in order for the association to purchase land for conservation or access to fishing and hunting areas.

“Two years ago, we bought about 90-acres to help preserve that specific area,” Abt said.

“The province allows us to lease land and then gives us first right of refusal if or when the land on those leases comes up for sale. With so many areas of the province getting more and more populated, this is a very important part of being able to keep and maintain areas for fish and animal habitat.”

Meanwhile, the evening banquet included — along with the usual beef, turkey, perogies and salad — an assortment of more gamy items such as moose, elk, mule deer and a rather exotic, yet tasty treat — alligator.

Abt explained this was the first time the event ever had alligator on the menu and it seemed to go over well with the majority of the audience.

“We got the alligator from a Lacombe member and decided to add it, though we needed to go and purchase more from a store in Edmonton so there would be enough for everyone,” he said.

“It went over great. People here are used to the gamy taste, so we figured we would add something not so mainstream.”

Awards

A total of 26 awards were dished out with Abt stating the number of entries, especially in the junior classes, seems to be growing. He added the fishing side of things is getting bigger as it’s something anyone can get into, while there were 30 per cent more juniors that participated in this year’s horn measuring.

The list of winners includes:

Catch and keep: brook trout — Phyllis Walcheske; northern pike — Ray Abt; yellow perch — Ray Abt; burbot — Brian Rutherford; lake trout — Keith Prins; rainbow trout — Derek Kozody; lake whitefish — Brian Rutherford; junior northern pike — Connor Hoag; junior burbot — Connor Hoag;

Catch and release: bull trout — Ray Abt; northern pike — Keith Prins; junior bull trout — Jenna Abt; junior walleye — Levi Prins;

Big game, rifle: elk — Brady Swier; moose — Randy Gartner; bear — Murray Dux; antelope — Pat Simpson; cougar — Eric Frandsen; typical whitetail — Brian Prins; junior elk — Connor Hoag; junior typical whitetail — Maison Senft: junior non-typical whitetail — Adam Hoag;

Big game, archery: non-typical elk — Darren Carlson; typical mule deer — Mike Oudman; Bird: Canada goose — Leonard Davis.

 

Connor Hoag, right, stands with Big Game director Ray Abt after having taken three awards at the annual Ponoka Fish and Game awards Feb. 3. Photo by Jordie Dwyer

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