NAPLES -- Mother Nature played a cruel April Fools Day trick on anglers fishing the 44th Annual Naples Creek Rainbow Trout Derby.
Entrants worked hard and long to bring in a few big trout from the cold, stained waters of Naples Creek during this derby held from 5:51 a.m. until 5 p.m. on Friday.
"Hope had been high for good opening day catches when the Department of Environmental Conservation held stream-shocking studies last Thursday," said derby chairman Jane Schenk. Water clarity was ideal and surveyors had pulled at least one 10-pound rainbow trout from a pool inside village limits.
But a week later trout trekkers had to deal with runoff from melting snow raising and staining even smaller feeder streams entering Naples Creek.
"Even the chill water temperatures added to the slow catch rate this day," said Gideon Hanggi, retired Environmental Conservation Officer, derby volunteer and emcee during the awards presentations.
Many records were broken, but most were for fewest fish caught and least amount of trophies taken.
"We always get a three-fish limit of rainbow trout checked in, sometimes before 7 a.m., at the start of the derby every year," Schenk said..
The First Limit trophy was not awarded. None of the 516 entrants could hook into three legal-sized keepers.
Just 11 trout had been entered by 3 p.m. when Naples native Jim Winnick arrived with his 6-pound, 12-ounce, 25 1/2 -inch trout he caught with an egg sack. Winnick's 'bow bumped Fairport angler Charlie Cleveland's 5-pound, 24-inch trout to second place overall, which then placed Cleveland's trout first in the Men's Division.
Women anglers often outdo men entering trout at these Naples openers, but this year the Women's Division award went unclaimed. The only female success story came in when Rochester angler Alesha Piazza had her trout entry weighed at 3 pounds and measuring 21 1/2 inches, which won the Girl-Under-Age-16 Division. Her entry topped all trout boys entered in their division.
As a result of sparse entries, Raymond Patterson's 20 1/2 -inch, 2-pound, 13-ounce rainbow took the Boy-Under-Age-16 and two other local divisions. Many experienced anglers entered, but none could bring in a single fish for the Over 65 Division. Just 13 entries hit the tape and scale by derby's end.
That didn't mean experienced anglers weren't out there trying.
Taxidermist Dewey Pickering finishes mounts for many of the division winners from derbies each year. "I've never seen an opener like this," he said as he placed his fly rod on a hedge outside derby headquarters late Friday afternoon. Asked why he left his rod and reel on the hedge, Pickering quipped, "It's doing about as much there as it did all day on the stream."
Pickering, who has entered every Naples Derby held in 44 years, worked area waters hard until the last hour or so. Winner Jim Winnick, also a contest veteran, had logged 40 of those 44 years as a derby entrant.
Winnick, 49, said "I've never missed a trout opener (April 1) since I was 9," as he posed for photographs with his uncle and mentor, John Cappon of Rochester. "Uncle Jack used to take my twin cousins, Tim and Tom, and me out on Naples Creek when were just little kids, and I'm glad he could be here with us to be in the pictures during the awards ceremony."
The chilled waters, rarely above 38 degrees anywhere on Naples Creek, and the runoff staining could offer anglers a windfall while they work the Naples waterways this coming week.
"Trout will remain upstream as waters warm and clear. With so few fish caught during the derby, Naples and nearby Catharine's Creek should be trout hotspots for a week or two, with catch numbers better than usual," Hanggi said.
"After the first day or two, most trout streams are all but quiet," he added. This could be a good year to save some of that opening-day and opening-weekend zeal for what could be a rewarding payback for Mother Nature's nasty opener.
Check out those hill-sided inland streams. With that warming air promised for later this week -- and an extra hour to fish now that Daylight Savings Time has arrived -- rainbows could appear at the end of a golden day or two this coming week.