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The Great Ontario Salmon Derby

The fish that didn't get away from McCallion

By Joe Warmington ,Toronto Sun

First posted: Thursday, August 11, 2011 7:40:08 EDT PM

TORONTO - There was something fishy going on at city hall Thursday.

Yes, that was Mississauga Mayor Hazel McCallion walking in through Nathan Phillips Square and into city hall carrying a 18-pound salmon as a gift for Mayor Rob Ford.

“He’s been working too hard and I wanted the mayor to have a great Chinook salmon, caught off Port Credit in Mississauga, for supper,” McCallion said.

Ford was supposed to be on this excursion aboard Capt. Dolly Erbrecht’s Salmon Express with Great Ontario Salmon Derby Chair Walter Oster as host.

First mate Jamie Louden even had a special rod and tackle rigged up for him.

Photographer Dick Loek was ready to take the great picture and I my video camera was charged up.

But at the last minute his staff cancelled, saying regretfully he was too busy to go fishing.

It seems when you are cleaning up a $740-million deficit mess left by you’re predecessors there is not a lot of time left over for fun.

So an understanding Hurricane Hazel took the fun to him.

“This fish will be great on you’re barbecue,” McCallion teased.

And this was not just any fish.

This beauty was caught by her worship herself.

In fact it was exciting watching the 90-year-old legend reel it in as Oster, his Canadian National Sportsman Shows’ colleagues Wendy and Peter Lockhart, businessman Roy Main and comedy legend Gordie Tapp cheered.

“It was a lot easier than the 32-pounder I caught a few years back,” McCallion said. “But it still offered up a good fight.”

Rather than take it home herself she decided to bring the younger mayor a gift — and a good-natured dig, too.

“Mississauga is the salmon capital of Canada,” McCallion said.

Actually, the whole GTA is great for chinook salmon and the biggest fish caught so far in the derby — which runs until Aug. 27 – is a 37-pounder caught off Whitby by Matt Santoro.

The biggest fish caught each week nets a Toyota Matrix, while the largest catch of the derby reels in a Toyota Tacoma.

It was quite a scene inside the mayor’s office when the visiting mayor brought in her prize and the media jumped to snare the good-news story and councillors, including Doug Ford, Mike Del Grande and Frances Frances Nunziata came into to see the fish, and to meet the gracious McCallion.

It was one for the books and a little bit of city hall history, too.

“Since I first went down there in 1958 for the Telegram and later for the Sun, I have seen a lot of strange things at city hall but I don’t ever remember anybody bringing a salmon into the mayor’s office,” former Toronto Sun editor John Downing said. “I have seen some clowns and donkeys at city hall, but not this.”

It was a neat summer treat and reminder for everyone to chill out and enjoy our great area. And both of those great mayors needed it too. They are under a lot of pressure and scrutiny and while we all know it’s serious, the mayor’s job is supposed to occasionally have a communal and convivial component to it. This happened Thursday.

For his part, Ford wondered aloud when he could find some free time on his schedule to get a chance to beat his more senior angler with a bigger salmon caught off Toronto waters.

“How about Aug. 25?” offered Oster. “Bring some of the council.”

Ford, who went fishing last month on Harrington Lake with Prime Minister Stephen Harper, said he would extend the invitation to the PM, adding although he did catch a big bass with the prime minister, “it wasn’t this big.”

Perhaps McCallion should come along and offer some tips.

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