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Giant, record-class walleye caught and released near Dryden, Ont.

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Our outdoor columnist has tracked down a whopper of a fish tale for us this morning … a walleye caught near Dryden measuring three feet long. 8:50

A potentially record-breaking walleye got the break of its life last weekend.

On March 10, Robert Monty of Vermilion Bay, Ont., caught and released a giant walleye that he said was record-book calibre. The experienced angler had no idea when he started on the water near the northwestern Ontario city that day, it would end with such a bang.

“We went for crappies in the morning,” said Monty. “We never had too much luck, so we headed her back to the walleye spot.”

Monty was fishing with his wife Donnalee, his friend Gilbert Grandbois and Grandbois’ partner, Sheila Sjodin.

Monty said the spot they fish is near a creek mouth and is known to hold walleye in March. He said the walleye fishing is usually best in the evening.

“We got there about 3 o’clock,” Monty said of their hot spot. “It was about eight feet of water, and we set up our lines.”

He added that when the sun started “heading down the trees,” he began to work his two jigging rods. Both were baited with a jig and a minnow. Monty said he had just left one hole and was going to another one when Sheila cried “Robert, you’ve got a fish!”

The angler then grabbed the rod and set the hook. “It ran about two or three times on me,” Monty said. “My friend was looking at me and I said ‘I think we have something big here.'”

Monty said he could hear the eight pound test line rubbing on the ice and feared a break-off. “I said ‘I can’t get his head up,'” he said.

That’s when Monty said he realized this was no normal walleye. Grandbois quickly came to help. He grabbed the fishing line as Monty battled the fish just under the hole with his short jigging rod.

Robert Monty of Dryden, Ont., says his eyes “popped out” when he saw this giant walleye come through the ice hole on March 10, 2018. (photo credit: Donnalee Monty/Facebook)

The walleye’s head slipped into the hole and filled it, Monty said, adding that Grandbois then leaned down and barely got two fingers in the gill plate.

When the giant walleye was pulled out of the hole “my eyes popped out,” said Monty, adding that the fish measured 36 inches (91 centimetres) in length from nose to tail.

He said he didn’t measure the girth but it was one very fat walleye.

“When [Grandbois] pulled it out of the hole, we had a hard time and he had a hard time,” Monty said. “The walleye was scratching the hole … it was a big girl.”

Monty said after a few pictures were taken, he released the fish back down the hole.

Near a record

According to the Ontario Federation of Anglers and Hunters fishing registry, the present Ontario record walleye is 36.5 inches long (almost 93 centimetres) and had a girth of 21 inches (53 centimetres).

That fish was caught on May 26, 1943 and weighed 22 pounds and 4 ounces.

Monty, who said he guided walleye anglers for many years on the English River system in northwestern Ontario, said until last Saturday, his personal best walleye was 30 inches (76 centimetres).

Despite the rarity of his catch, Monty said he has no regrets about releasing the walleye and does not plan to get a replica made.

“Just a picture and a memory,” he said. “There’s always a bigger one out there. But that’s my biggest.”

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Ottawa families give mixed reviews for online schooling

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So, how’s it going with online school? Families reached by CBC Ottawa seem to have mixed reviews. 

Masuma Khan is a mother of two. Her seven-year-old, Hana Wyndham in Grade 2, is attending French immersion virtual school. Masuma is grateful it’s an option, but can’t help notice a lot of down time.

“There’s a lot of, ‘are you on mute?’ In terms of the amount of learning that’s actually happening, it does seem to be not that high,” said Masuma.

Parents who kept their children at home this fall are in the minority, but they still form a significant chunk of families in Ottawa.

In the city’s largest school board, the Ottawa-Carleton District School Board (OCDSB), about 27 per cent of elementary students and 22 per cent of high school students chose online learning. The Ottawa Catholic School Board says roughly a quarter of its students are online.

For Masuma, the decision to keep her daughter home was complex: extended family members are immunocompromised and she worried the in-person learning environment would be unpleasant because of precautions. She also felt her daughter might benefit from being supported at home.

“She doesn’t necessarily enjoy school. I also found out during the pandemic that she was being bullied [last year],” said Masuma. “So I thought, why not try from home?”

To help her daughter socialize face-to-face with other kids, Masuma enrolled Hana in Baxter Forest School, an alternative education program where kids spend most of their time outside, one day a week. Hana also attends virtual Arabic classes two days a week after school. 

Masuma’s husband and Hana share the living room work space, and Masuma admits he does the lion’s share of helping their daughter stay on task. There is a possibility that he’ll be required to return to his office in the new year.

“When he goes back to work … it’s probably going to be a little bit more difficult.”

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No school closures after Christmas holiday break, says Ontario education minister

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Ontario elementary and secondary schools will not close for an extended winter break, says Education Minister Stephen Lecce.

Closures aren’t needed given Ontario’s “strong safety protocols, low levels of (COVID-19) transmission and safety within our schools,” Lecce announced Wednesday afternoon. He said he had consulted with Chief Medical Officer of Health Dr. David Williams and the province’s public health measures advisory table.

That ended speculation about school buildings remaining closed in January for a period of time after the Christmas break.

Earlier in the week, Lecce told reporters the government was considering having students spend “some period out of class” in January, perhaps switching to online learning.

In a statement, Lecce said that even though rates of community transmission of COVID-19 are increasing, “schools have been remarkably successful at minimizing outbreaks to ensure that our kids stay safe and learning in their classrooms.”

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Windy start to the week in Ottawa

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OTTAWA — It’s a blustery Monday in the capital with wind gusts of up to 50 km/hour expected throughout the day.

Environment Canada is forecasting a high of 4 C with a 60 per cent chance of showers or flurries before the wind dies down later this evening.

There’s a chance of flurries on Tuesday as well with a high of -1 C. The overnight low will dip to an unseasonal -9 C.  

Wednesday’s high will be just -5 C with lots of sunshine.

Seasonal temperatures return for the rest of the week..

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