Pinehurst Lake: “The 3 in 3”

MCpl Ayrton Balfour

Another successful Strathcona fishing trip has come and gone.  This year has probably been the greatest year yet, with 25 participants – all eager for a shot at the coveted trophy.  For the past three years, the Regiment has been hosting a fishing derby at Pinehurst Lake, now known as “Pinehurst: The 3 in 3”, which is located 230 km northwest of the base.  It started as an old boys club fishing tournament, a chance for retired Strathconas and serving Strathconas to get together and exchange stories, do some fishing, and get a good drunk on.  Now, it has become much more than that - a large scale tournament, with all the catching up, drinking, camping, and of course fishing.


This year saw a few early bird retirees such as former SSM Recce Ian “the foxygen thief” Fox arrive on Mon 18 July to secure some optimum camping spots with great views of the lake on the Southwest shore.  Most of the group arrived mid-afternoon Tues 19 July....yes getting the afternoon off for travel time.  The remainder of the busy bees of the regiment, including the CO, RSM, and Adjt (proudly towing the “Surf Tamer” behind him) arrived mid-day on the tournament opener, Wed 20 July.  Tuesday evening, once trailers were parked, tents were pitched, everyone gathered around the fire at SSM “I better win this year” Brown’s site.  Beers were enjoyed, and stories were shared of recent mystical catches that every fisherman wants, but nobody has truly caught.  Chirps were given and laughs were had by all.  Even former RSM, Tony “can I fish with dynamite?” Batty called out people on their farfetched nobody’s surprise.  Luckily retired Strathcona, now EPS officer Ian “Yan” Folkerts, and WO Lee “Skinny” Encinas made it out as well.


Wednesday morning witnessed some groggy, yet eager fisherman, getting out early to catch the big one...and where this tournament was for the biggest Northern Pike (despite some very nice walleye being caught) everyone was eager to entice the biggest one they could to the net.  Through a bit of rain, the fish were taking advantage of the cold water and biting on some big lures, like the “Grandmas”, and specifically the homemade buck tail spinner made by the CO the night before – being thrown by his partner the RSM.  Remarkably, this lure was the one to eventually catch the winning fish of the 2016 tournament, a healthy 16.2 pounder, which was caught within 20 min of being on the water.  A lot of other big fish were caught that day, but none in comparison. Wednesday evening found everyone around the campfire again, dishing out stories of famed dropped fish and a good ‘ole fashioned fish fry.

Point to Note:  Pinehurst has a size cap for pike @70mm being the smallest length to keep, with all others being released.  As for walleye, not perch! tags are needed to keep those big eyed bastards.  It is recommended that the fisherman do his AFV (Alberta Fish Verification) prior to fishing, because if you keep the wrong fish, you are considered a poacher - as one anonymous (for legal reasons) soldier found out the hard way. 

Something special about this tournament, is not only the time off work to fish and have a good time, but a chance for new fishers to learn and gain experience from those who have been at it for years.  WO “grey bush” Zubkowski heeded advice on changing line on a reel and different strategies for tying the fisherman knot, where RSM “he must have a horseshoe up his ass” Clarke advised on hot spots, what lures to use, and lending some fav lures he had for years......which will come into play later.  MWO “Breaking Bad” Boland and SSM “I can’t believe I didn’t win” Brown advised certain sizes of vessels should be weary of the 3 foot waves that could appear in 3 seconds.

Thursday brought on a few late morning risers, and everyone trying to beat the big 16 pounder, but by late morning, Pinehurst showed her true colours and in came the wind.  Most boats were prepared for it, but not the little 12’ aluminum 9.9 horse boat that thought it could which was captained by MCpl “Gilligan” Balfour and manned by MCpl “The Skipper” Chase and MCpl “The Professor” Dunford.   Unfortunately, the GPL boat puttered out from behind a peninsula and was greeted by monstrous waves.  It took only 50 feet from shore, into the vast open water, before the 3 jacks on board figured they must surrender to Pinehurst – “the 3 in 3” - and pulled a 180 to get back to shore.  Luckily a passing boat headed to the flailing life jackets on the North Shore and came about to investigate.  Sgt Kruhlak warned the beached jacks that help would be on the way......then, non-other than RSM Clarke, and LCol Lubiniecki came to the rescue and threw a line to the thankful crew for a tow.  Later told, the only reason he stopped was to save the lures he lent out.  Thanks RSM, one helluva guy.

Luckily, due to the prior days catch, the RSM’s name on the trophy remained safe for the 45 min recovery to the south shore campsite.  After all had laughed at the GPL boat’s expense, and a few “I told you so”, the prize cash, pictures and farewells were given. And everyone pulled pin and made their way home for the beginning of a well-deserved summer leave.  A few takeaways from the 2016 Strathcona Fishing Tournament:
1.    Two and a half days off work to fish, drink and camp;
2.    Pinehurst: The 3 in 3 devours little boats ferociously; and
3.    Research your AFV, as not everyone will get off as lucky as MCpl Balfour and his charm to the park ranger.  Ooops