The day began at 6 a.m., when anglers launched their boats, or stood along the shoreline, to cast their lines into the lake hoping to score the big catch. The event continued until 6 p.m., but participants were limited to only five catches. After they met their limit, it was time to pull anchor and head back to land where Jaycees would record the length of fish plucked from the lake.
Dan Sand, of Portsmouth, and Matt Bennie, of Cincinnati, arrived at 6 a.m. and were already pulling their boat back to land at about 9 a.m.
“We did great. We caught our limit and got off the lake early. We caught them all within about an hour of each other, and then they sort of quit biting,” Sand said.
Sand said he and Bennie have been coming out for 20 or 30 years.
“We come out and camp and spend time with friends from out of town. We all get together. We used to bring the kids all out, and they’d all have fun cooking at the campfire. You can’t beat it,” Sand said. “Now the kids are older so it’s just the old guys.”
His biggest catch this year was a 14-inch rainbow trout, but said he lined a 16-inch fish maybe 10 years ago.
According to Jaycee’s there are about 2,500 campers and 1,000 anglers participating in the Derby each year. Prizes are awarded at the end of the day for the biggest fish, divided by age groups. This year’s grand prize was a gas grill and propane tank.
“They have to be present to win the prizes. We give the prizes away at seven o’clock in the amphitheater,” McHenry said.
But each year the number of participants and — more importantly — donations have been shrinking. So much that Jaycees President Sean McHenry was concerned that this might be the last year Jaycees can afford to sponsor the event. He said the donations for this year’s derby, raised by a telemarketing fundraiser, were running only about one-fourth of what they have been in the past.
In years past, the Trout Derby has always given a boat to the big winner, but McHenry said they just couldn’t afford it this year.
“This is a community event, and obviously we’re subject to the community. What they put into it is what they’re going to get out of it. It’s a tradition that’s been around for a long time, and we love doing it. We just need a lot of help from the community,” McHenry said.
Whatever happens, Shawnee State Forest Assistant Park Manager Mark Hoffhines assured that the Trout Derby will continue next year with or without Jaycees.
“If (Jaycees) would happen to drop us, we’ll still have a Trout Derby every year whether they’re a sponsor or not. We get the fish provided by the Division of Wildlife, and they put us on a schedule every year for fish. So the fish will be here,” he said.
A list of this year’s Trout Derby winners was not available before press time Saturday.
In addition to the Trout Derby, Jaycees also sponsors the local Halloween Haunted House, the Christmas parade and Christmas baskets, Valentine’s Day Rose Sale, Easter Egg Hunt in Mound Park, and support for the Tour of Scioto River Valley. Anyone wishing to make a donation to Jaycees can do so by calling the Jaycees at (740) 353-6709.
RYAN SCOTT OTTNEY can be reached at (740) 353-3101, ext. 235, or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.