Trout Derby catches phenomenal year


WEST PORTSMOUTH— As an Appalachian community lying within the Ohio River Valley, people have been living off the land as long as the land has been lived on, taking advantage of the rich soils, forest life, and fish living in the many bodies of water and streams. It’s no surprise that businesses catering to hunting and fishing do well here. To celebrate these practices, the members of the Portsmouth Area Jaycees organized yet another successful Trout Derby for families to enjoy.

The event has a 58-year history and is in its second year with local businessman Gary Jenkins behind the wheel.

“Last year was smaller than usual, as we were focused on gaining new membership within the organization and growing in other ways,” Jenkins explained about last year’s event prior to hitting the ground running this year.”

Last year’s efforts in self-preservation and growth served the organization well, not only growing the membership base of the organization, but providing a streamlined path to joining the Chamber of Commerce when members phase out of Jaycees and continue to serve the community in meaningful ways. It also helps them sustain their events and programming that benefits the overall community, such as the Trout Derby, Christmas Parade, and more. This is visible in the growth of opportunity in the Trout Derby.

This year, according to Jenkins, was a massive success that proved last year’s slower pace to invest more time into planning paid off.

“It went fantastically. We were blessed with wonderful weather. For the first time in 20-plus years, there was no rain,” Jenkins said. “This led to a massive turnout, the biggest we’ve had in ten-plus years. We even fed over 300 people a free lunch.”

The group works closely with the state to guarantee it planned around opportunities for success for participants.

“We work very closely with the state leading up to the Trout Derby,” Jenkins explained. “They come in and drop over 1,400 trout between the two lakes in Shawnee just prior to the derby.”

As this partnership grows stronger, Jenkins says they are looking at ways they can work together to make even greater improvements for the derby.

“We’re continuing to grow,” Jenkins said. “We are in negotiations with Ohio Department of Natural Resources about the number of trout they drop into the lake next year. We are looking forward to having even more fish in the lake in the very near future.”

The partnership is a benefit to the many people who participate in the day of fishing, which is a major benefit to children looking for something to do with their families.

“It is wonderful to give opportunities to our community to come out and enjoy something nice, especially our children, who need a safe place to be,” Jenkins said. “I think the Trout Derby provides that outlet for families and children. It also allows us to connect our mission to other people and groups that we may otherwise not do so. Out of community service, I think it is one of the better things we do.”

The event was free to participate in. Volunteers were onsite to measure fish all day and those who caught fish were allowed to keep their catch. The three largest trout earned their fishermen a prize. Jenkins claimed the prizes consisted of a kayak, a gift card, and a cooler.

First place went to Colt Holmes, who caught a trout measuring 13.9 inches; second place went to Brooke Conley, who caught a trout measuring 13.75 inches; and third place went to Jerry Arnett, who caught a trout measuring 13.7 inches.

The group gave away 25 fishing poles to children who arrived with homemade poles that highlighted ingenuity.

“We had some really neat poles made out of bamboo and yardsticks,” Jenkins said. “We even had one kid fishing, successfully with a catch, on his homemade pole. It was really something.”

As another year wraps up, Jenkins said that the Portsmouth Area Jaycees look forward to working on the rest of the year’s events and planning a greater trout derby come next year. For now, they’re celebrating a success in the 2024 derby.

“This event is the second longest-lasting event in a state park in Ohio. I think it is thanks to the people in Scioto County who continue to love the Trout Derby,” Jenkins said. “As I continue to work on this project, I hear more and more stories from people who have memories of attending as a child, those who brought their child every year, and more. It has become a southern Ohio tradition to partake in the Trout Derby. I think many people in Scioto County have their identities rooted in the derby. In fact, a good friend of mine met his wife there and they take their children to it each year. It’s become a pilgrimage to some people to return home. There is one gentleman who moved out of the area and plans his annual trip home around the schedule of the derby,” Jenkins said. “It is very important to many people. As the derby continues to grow, it will be important for another 58 years to come.”

Reach Joseph Pratt at (740) 353-3101, by email at [email protected], © 2024 Portsmouth Daily Times, all rights reserved.

No posts to display