Anglers search Seneca for 'the big one'
SENECA LAKE—Go catch the big one!
That’s the tag line for the 47th Annual National Lake Trout Derby this past Memorial Day weekend on Seneca Lake. Anglers had all of Saturday and Sunday, and half of Memorial Day to go fishing for the biggest trout or landlocked salmon they could find. The sponsor, Finger Lakes Sports-O-Rama, had weight stations set up in Watkins Glen, Geneva, and Sampson State Park.
Prizes were given out in groups: men age 20 to 59, women age 20 to 59, senior citizens, teens age 16 to 19, and children age five to 15. The grand prize was $5,000 for the biggest lake, brown, rainbow trout, or landlocked salmon. This year’s winner was James Chapman of Clifton Springs with a 14.17 pound fish.
Colin Morehouse, one of the organizers, explained the event started 47 years ago by Geneva merchants to boost the economy and encourage fishing in younger people. He said he sent out invitations for the derby to 26 states. Morehouse said there were some participants this year from California, Texas, Utah, and all across the eastern seaboard in general. He said the highest number was 28,015 anglers in 1977. Last year 14,005 people competed, and 14,046 in 2009.
Meagan Sabatini brought in a 7.91 pound trout to the Watkins weight station Saturday afternoon. At that point, that was biggest trout on the Watkins board, though there was talk that someone in Geneva brought in a 13 pounder.
“It’s the biggest fish I ever caught,” she said of her three years of fishing.
However, less than 30 minutes later Sabatini’s catch was knocked from the top spot by Lodi resident Bob Sullivan. He caught an 8.03 pound trout. Sullivan said it was very good morning for fishing, though a little foggy. He added he was surprised where he caught the fish: within 25 feet of land.
Sullivan went out fishing with Dave Shupp. He explained Sullivan caught the trout earlier in the morning. Shupp added, “it was about all the action we had.”
One of the bigger fish at 10.48 pounds came from Frederick C. Freeman, Himrod. Dundee resident Mike D. Black had a 10.23 pound fish, while David M. Rickerson of Penn Yan caught a 8.77 pounder.
Kathryn W. Cooley, Penn Yan resident, came in with a 7.46 pound fish. Jacob J. Johnson of Hector scored an 11.1 pound fish in the juvenile division.
Penn Yan couple Helga and Siegfried Poreda were also early top spot takers on Saturday. Helga said her husband had a 7.92 trout, which lost rankings on the board as bigger fish were brought in. She said her own 9.45 pound trout was at first in the senior division at the time, but by Sunday lost a few ranks.
However, Poreda said they both like participating in the competition. She added they’ve been doing it for about 25 years now. Poreda said it’s not just catching the fish, but cooking the trout as well.