PDT Staff Writer
The annual Portsmouth Trout Derby, held the last Saturday in April on Turkey Creek Lake in Shawnee State Park, goes down rain or shine. Some years there have been rain and temperatures a little too cool.
Last year’s derby got under way with a threat of rain, but Sean McHenry, then vice president of the Portsmouth Area Jaycees, said at the time, “We willed the rain right on out of here.”
The rain sure enough held off all day. The fish cooperated, too, with anglers battling in some excellent rainbow trout.
This year’s event, the 44th, is scheduled for this coming Saturday, and the local weather report is calling for lots of sunshine and temperatures in the 80s.
“Looks very promising for a good day to be outside,” said Curtis Depuy, public information director for the Portsmouth Area Jaycees. “We’re very hopeful of one of the best turnouts yet.”
A lot of work goes into pulling off a successful Portsmouth Trout Derby. The Jaycees set up food and drinks and registration booths at either end of 51-acre Turkey Creek Lake. They measure and record fish brought in by anglers in different age groups, awarding prizes to those with the biggest fish in each group.
A valid Ohio fishing license is required.
Officers from the Ohio Department of Natural Resources Division of Fish and Wildlife and from Shawnee State, as well as a few officers brought in from other state parks, work through Friday evening and night to stock 2,000 to 3,000 rainbow trout into the lake in time for the 6 a.m. kickoff of Saturday’s derby.
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 on the upper end of the lake. 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 by 6 a.m. last year. The crowd had dwindled down to a couple of dozen by 4 p.m.
The net is raised after 6 p.m. and what trout are left join the others that were stocked in the main lake, Moore said.
The trout stocked last year averaged 14 to 17 inches long.
Some fishermen troll for the trout in boats with electric trolling motors or fish from the riprap down near the lake’s spillway. They troll Rooster Tail lures and various other makes of small spinners. Shore fishermen bait up with yellow whole kernel corn from the can, Berkley’s Power Bait, or nightcrawlers and redworms. Anglers usually snap a bobber to the line three or four feet above the hook.
There is boat launch ramp located at the dam. Some boats and canoes are available for rent on the upper end of the lake.
Entertainment includes live music set for the amphitheater Friday evening.
The grand prize for the overall longest trout this year will once again be a 10-foot johnboat.
More information is available by calling the Jaycees office at (740) 353-6709.
Some people come to the derby for a weekend of reunion by family and friends. The campground at Shawnee State Park offers 103 sites for tents and campers. All have electrical hookups. The park also offers lodge rooms, cabins, a dining room and miles of hiking trails.
More information on the park is available by calling the park office at (740) 858-6652.
G. SAM PIATT can be reached at (740) 353-3101, ext. 236.