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Will Elliott’s Fishing: Trout weighing 9.5 pounds captures Derby

Stream conditions on Naples Creek were ideal and sizeable spawning female and male rainbow trout were headed up stream from Canandaigua Lake into the creek’s many fishable hot spots.

Those would be promising stream-condition reports for April 1, the first day of the 55th annual Naples Rainbow Trout Derby. But those features were essentially the report that Bill Grove, derby director, and other area Naples Creek observers said of the creek two weeks earlier.

During the 2015 Naples Derby on April 1, a steady freeze had ice fishermen on nearby lakes and many a derby entry brought in to the Naples fire hall had frosted fins and were snow-covered. This year, anglers rushed to get their fish in for weights and measures and onto ice as soon as possible in 65-degree afternoon temperatures.

Grand Prize winner Tim Linehan, of Rochester, caught his big male trout at about 8 a.m. and brought it in to derby headquarters. It weighed in at 9.5 pounds, measured 30.1 inches and was a confirmed leader. He then took the fish to his mom’s house, his childhood home. Before a photo session, Linehan took a picture of his fish and then filleted it, cooked it up for lunch and served it to mom and a few fishing buddies.

Linehan, age 50, has been fishing the Naples Derby since age five, took pride in accepting his award trophy but did not show the exuberance seen in most current and previous winners.

“I’ve caught dozens of trout (from Naples Creek) bigger than this one,” he said at the end of the contest later that day.

One of the luncheon guests at Linehan’s Grand Prize cooking was Ron Molinari of Rochester, the angler who won first place this year in the Men’s Division with a 5-pound, 4-ounce, 26.3-inch female ‘bow. Molinari took Grand Prize in the 2015 Naples Derby.

Donna Faatz of Naples topped the Women’s Division with a 5-pound, 24.5-inch male trout.

Female anglers took awards in other divisions. Ana Bieliecki, 13, of Buffalo fished until 3:30 that afternoon and finally hooked into a 2-pound, 2-ounce, 18.9-inch male rainbow taken on an egg sack. Ana’s fish won the Girls Under-Age-16 trophy.

Amber Romanowski of Bloomfield fished the Eel Pot stream waters above Naples village, caught and measured a 17-inch female trout and won the Catch-and-Release Women’s Divison. Romanowski, during her first year in the Naples Derby, was the only top winner to catch a winning fish without the use of an egg/live-bait offering. She went with a black and yellow jig floated down current under a bobber.

Scott Martin of Naples, a 40-year entrant in the Naples Derby, topped eight other male entrants in the Catch and Release Male Division with a 24.5-inch released ‘bow. Son Mason Martin, 14, caught a 4.4-pound ‘bow that didn’t win any trophies but added to the father-son bonding enjoyment.

Distant family bonds were shown when Jason Woodard Jr. won the Mert Woodard Memorial award given to a Naples youth. Scott Woodard, nephew of Mert Woodard, presented Jason, great grandson of Mert Woodard, his award for a 4-pound, 20.5-inch female entry.

The Boy Under Age 16 award went to an elated Logan Years, 14, of Canandaigua. Logan has been fishing the contest with family members, some of whom have fished Naples for decades. And this was the first first-place for a Years family entry. Logan’s fish weighed 4 pounds and 6 ounces and measured 28.8 inches.

In the Over 65 Division, John Zastawrny of Kendall led all senior anglers with a 5.5-pound, 25.3-inch male trout brought in early that day.

On a day predicted to be stormy later in the afternoon and with solar-lunar peak periods set for only early to mid morning, opening day of trout season at Naples, in nearby Finger Lakes streams and along Southern Tier trout waters showed good catches and late-spring like weather in which to fish.

In streams such as Naples where native fish are the main target an early spawning cycle curbed the take. Of the 336 derby entrants, just 36 anglers brought in fish, plus an additional 10 catch-and-release entries. Bill Grove, derby director, sees this new division as a plus for this and future Naples Derbies. Proceeds from this event go to Naples Rotary Club community service projects.

On streams where anglers basically fish for hatchery-stocked trout, water conditions were fair and catches were impressive. All scheduled Department of Environmental Conservation hatchery sites were stocked prior to the April 1 season opener. Look for a listing of sites stocked each week prior to each weekend in the Wednesday Fishing Line column.