The Portsmouth Area Jaycees sets up food, drinks and registration booths at either end of Turkey Creek Lake. They measure and record fish brought in by anglers in four age groups, awarding prizes to those with the three biggest fish in each group.
Officers from Ohio Department of Natural Resources Division of Fish and Wildlife, and officers from Shawnee State Park and other state parks, worked hard to stock 2,800 rainbow trout into the lake in time for the 6 a.m. kickoff of Saturday's derby.
And for this derby, the 43rd annual, the Jaycees even learned a new trick to make participants happy.
"It was supposed to rain, but we willed it away. We willed it right on out of here, baby," said Jaycees vice president Sean McHenry.
And all the work that went into the preparation seemed worth it, just to see the smile on the face of 7-year-old Veronica Stevenson of Minford, as she held up a trout better than a foot long.
With just a little coaching from her parents and friends, and Hocking Hills State Park officer Paul Baker, she battled it in all the way herself and reeled it up onto the bridge crossing the kid's pool at the upper end of the lake.
Was it her first fish of the day?
"It's my first fish ever!" she said. "Oh, I hope it's not my last."
Mike Moore, an officer with Shawnee State Park who's been helping out with the derby since 1999, said 500 fish were put in a netted-off area where a feeder stream flows under the wooden bridge. The area was restricted to kids ages three to 12, and each young angler could keep as many as five fish.
Moore said there was probably a hundred youngsters there at 6 a.m. The crowd had dwindled down to a couple of dozen by 4 p.m.
"We'll raise the net after 6 p.m. and let what trout are left join the other 2,300 or so that were stocked in the main lake," Moore said.
He said this year's trout appeared to be larger than those stocked in most previous years.
"These fish were fourteen to seventeen inches long," he said.
Older fishermen trolled for the trout in boats with electric trolling motors or fished from the riprap down near the lake's spillway.
McHenry said the Jaycees are trying to have more events and make the trout derby a fun day even for those who don't fish.
They sold tiny rubber ducks for $1 each and about 100 of them entered in a race down the spillway and past a point in Turkey Creek, with the first place prize going to Wayne Jones.
A corn hole tournament was held at 3:30 p.m. at the campground next to Roosevelt Lake. There was a casting contest, a magic show, and live music.
The grand prize for the over-all longest trout was a 12-foot john boat. It was won by James Grooms, 35, of Portsmouth, with a rainbow trout 14-1/4 inches long.
First-place winners in the four age groups were Aaron Arnett in the 12 and younger, Bill Artressia in the 13-17, William Wood in the 18-59 and Charles Nance in the 60 and older category.
G. SAM PIATT can be reached at (740) 353-3101, ext. 236.