This past weekend, May 2 and 3, marked the twelfth annual Chambersburg Noontime Lions Club trout derby.
Chambersburg, Pennsylvania, is located in the south central part of the state. The stream to be fished during the tournament was the East Branch of the Conococheague. This stream flows out of a reservoir just north of Chambersburg, runs down into Maryland, right past my house, and dumps into the Potomac River and then eastward into the Chesapeake Bay.
The stream offers cold, mountain stream like conditions ideal for trout. Trout are known to "hold over" year after year if not caught by a lucky fisherman. Though in extreme hot, dry summers, I would guess not many fish can survive due to low water levels and increasing temperatures of the water.
For this particular tournament, a five mile stretch of the stream is stocked with tagged fish. The tag is inserted into the back, adjacent to the fish's dorsal fin. The tag has a number on it that was predetermined to be worth anywhere from twenty-five dollars and one fish worth two thousand dollars.
Over four hundred tagged trout were released into the stream late Friday night, May first.
One important note is that during the week prior to the derby, the state stocked two different areas, on Monday and Thursday. And, a local rod and gun club stocked an area on Wednesday. The stream was just loaded with trout heading into the weekend.
The weather forecast did not look promising for the weekends tournament. Calling for rainy conditions both days, would prove to be tough on the fishermen, woman and children partaking in the weekend event.
3:45am Saturday morning the alarmed sounded, it was time to go fishing!
I was to meet a friend from work at the spot we had hoped to catch some fish at. I arrived at 4:45 and he was already in his spot. Many vehicles were already there, along with a couple of campers. He had fished this tournament the past four years with no success of tagged fish. This was my first time for the derby.
We fished in that area for about an hour past the official start time of six in the morning. Then we proceeded up stream to a hole we had luck in on previous occasions. We caught some fish out of this hole but no tagged fish yet.
Lunch time came and we decided we had fished hard for the first part of the morning and would go grab some food, come up with a game plan, and hit them hard again in an hour or so.
After lunch we went back to the hole we had just left and fished it until 6pm. Day one ended with my landing thirteen fish and one had a tag. My buddy caught six trout but no tags. The rain held off for the most part on Saturday.
Sunday brought us new hope of the illustrious tagged trout. We decided not to go as early, but head back to that same hole we spent so much time in the day before. We had witnessed and took part in about fifty fish being caught in this area, and only one had a tag. We knew the fish were there and maybe the tagged fish would bite today.
My first cast I got a bite, but lost my bait. I re-baited the hook and cast the line, nibble, nibble, nibble... Wham, "I got him", I said to my buddy standing right next to me. "He's not very big", but as he got closer I could see the lucky blue tag from his dorsal fin.
At this point I couldn't believe it, my buddies had fished this tournament the four past years and never caught a tagged fish, and there I am having two, and one in the first five minutes of day two.
The rain did not hold off on Sunday however, as it rained all day with no let up. The creek was muddied a bit, and levels came up, and some of the fishermen went home empty handed.
I ended up catching eighteen trout in all, and three tagged fish, earning me $100. But, this is not a story of how I am a better fisherman than my buddies, or anyone else for that matter. This is simply a story to show that, you can't catch them from the couch.
I could have decided not to go on day two because I already caught a tagged one on Saturday. That seemed to be a feat all itself, but something makes me get up for everything outdoors. Something keeps me coming back for more, even if I don't get a bite or see a hunted animal.
This tournament profits the Lions Club of Chambersburg. They are helping the citizens of our towns all across the country. They provide meals, doctor visits, scholarships, and much more for those in need.
I grew up twenty miles from this tournament and never even heard about it. So if you do not think these activities are happening around you, look for them, they are there. You can't catch 'em from the couch!
As always, remember, no matter what the endeavour, safety above all else.