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Immigration snag sinks bass derby

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Citizenship and Immigration Canada pulled the plug Thursday afternoon on a controversial U.S.-based bass fishing derby that was being held in Ontario waters of Rainy Lake.

The Denny’s Super 30 Rainy Lake Invitational, slated to run Thursday through Saturday, ground to a halt just before the first weigh-in was supposed to start at 4:30 p.m. at the Pither’s Point dock.

Immigration officers informed derby organizer Denny Nelson of Edina, Mn. that—as a U.S. citizen—he was required by law to hold a work permit to host such an event in Canada.

“I had no idea I needed [the permit],” a disappointed Nelson said Friday morning. “I’m not earning money on [the derby], so I don’t consider it work.

“I guess it was total ignorance on my part.”

Nelson repeated his claims from Wednesday evening that he didn’t mean to cause trouble with the tournament—and said if he’d known a week ago about what all was required to hold the event, he wouldn’t have gone through with it.

Devlin’s Doug McBride and Steve Ballan of Fort Frances was the only confirmed Canadian team entered in the derby.

“I was under the impression all the homework had been done [to hold the event],” Ballan said after the aborted weigh-in Thursday. “We’re not in [competitive fishing] for the politics. We just love to fish.”

McBride said after Nelson initially spoke with immigration officers yesterday, he returned to the dock and informed the 12 participating teams that the derby would be shifted to the Minnesota side of Rainy Lake for Friday and Saturday.

“He said we had the option to fish or get our money back if we wanted to pull out,” said McBride, who added Nelson stressed to the competitors before the derby started yesterday morning that all fish reeled in were to be returned to the spot they were caught after the weigh-in.

But Nelson confirmed Friday morning that he was cancelling the derby altogether, and said all anglers will be refunded their entry fee. And he was pessimistic about trying to hold another tournament north of the border.

“I doubt they would give [the work permit] to me,” said Nelson. “We won’t be back, which is sad for the local business people. Some people got what they wanted.”

That reference was to various organizations which publicly denounced the Rainy Lake Invitational earlier this week for possibly opening the door to a slew of U.S.-organized tournaments to the area.

Fort Frances Sportsmen’s Club president Henry Miller, who was on hand at the weigh-in area Thursday, voiced his approval of the tournament’s fate.

“There’s too many tournaments in the lake already,” said Miller. “If they had come here and got away with this, [other U.S. fish derby organizers] would have been back here in droves.”

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