54th Portsmouth Jaycees Trout Derby is Saturday in Shawnee park

By Tom Corrigan - tcorrigan@aimmediamidwest.com

The Scioto County Soil and Water District will offer classes on basic fishing skills and the Ohio Division of Parks and Wildlife plans to offer free boat inspections. Shawnee State Park naturalist Jenny Richards will host a Birds of Prey show and you might also have some fun taking a hayride.

Oh, and by the way, you also have the opportunity to fish a lake specially stocked with trout with numerous prizes available for the biggest fish, including the grand prize of a 12-foot John boat.

The above happenings are, of course, all part of the 54th annual Portsmouth Jaycees Trout Fishing Derby, set for 6 a.m. to 2 p.m. Saturday on Turkey Creek Lake in Shawnee State Park, State Route 125 in West Portsmouth.

Portsmouth Jaycees President Kenny Scarberry said there will be separate fishing tournaments for adults and kids under 12. While the donated John boat is the biggest prize, Scarberry noted whoever reels in the top five fish will all take home some sort of recognition.

According to a schedule of events released by Shawnee State Park, the event starts with courtesy boat inspections by state officials offered 5-8 p.m. Friday. Hayrides will be available that same evening 6-8 p.m. Those interested should meet in front of the park’s large shower house. The schedule of events notes, perhaps only somewhat jokingly, that quiet time starts at 10 p.m., because “fishing starts early!”

Scarberry said 10 to 12 Jaycees volunteers will be on hand to measure fish. He believes after 50-plus years of the derby, everybody pretty much knows the rules, but he added whoever gets the largest fish measured first is first in line for prizes. In other words, if there are two 13-inch trouts reeled onto shore, the first one measured by the Jaycees is the winner. Scarberry added he believes a fish measuring just over 13 inches won last year’s event.

According to the state’s schedule of events, youngsters are invited beginning at 6 a.m. to stop by the kiddie tent and pick up a “golden ticket” as well as a fishing tote, provided by the Friends of Shawnee State Park. Primarily aimed at children, the county conservation district offers a “Passport to Fishing” program, teaching fishing basics, such as bating a hook and casting and reeling. Sign up by 10 a.m. Saturday.

The already mentioned Birds of Prey program is slated for 2 p.m. at the park amphitheater. Including the boat grand prize, prizes will be awarded in the amphitheater at 3 p.m. Winners must be present. Lastly, hayrides again will be available 6-8 p.m. Participants should again meet at the park’s large shower house.

Prior to last year’s fishing derby, Richards noted attendance at the derby is very much weather dependent. However, she also added, the lake is usually dotted with boats very early in the morning the day of the event.

One highlight last year included what Richards called a “fish shocking demonstration” put on by the state Department of Wildlife.

Essentially, DOW used electrified fishing poles to temporarily shock fish in the lake, causing them to rise unconscious to the surface. The fish were then gathered up and temporarily taken to shore where naturalists discussed the various breeds and how to recognize them. Unfortunately, Scarberry said arrangements for a similar demonstration this year just didn’t come together in time.

At least for a time earlier this year, the future of the Portsmouth Jaycees was in doubt as the group was in danger of falling below 20 members, the minimum number needed to retain their charter and continue to operate. Jaycees spokesperson Leroy Hackworth said the organization was committed to putting on the trout derby whether or not they retained their charter. As things turned out, some publicity brought in some new members and Hackworth said the local organization is safe until at least November. Scarberry said he definitely was relieved the membership issue is settled at least for now. Hackworth said the group went without a president for some time because of the small membership and Scarberry added he became president sort of by default. However, he intends to remain in the position of lease for the foreseeable future.

“The Jaycees do a lot for this community,” Scarberry said.

By Tom Corrigan