By Will Elliott
NEWS OUTDOORS WRITER
Snows melted and waters cleared Tuesday morning for a productive opening day of trout fishing, and entrants in the 53rd Naples Creek Rainbow Trout Derby caught fewer, but bigger, ’bows throughout the day.
Side roads and tractor lanes were rutted and muddy, but for anglers at sunrise on April Fools Day, access and fairly clear waters were open in Naples Creek from popular sites along Eel Pot and Grimes Glen down through the Digger Hole and the Route 245 Bridge to the mouth of Canandaigua Lake.
Anglers were furnished with, rather than fooled with, nice fishing conditions all day on Tuesday. The rainbow run had just started, and a good mix of bigger breeders moved upstream just days before the contest. Overcast skies and warming air kept fish moving that day and anglers enjoyed hooking fish from sunrise to the 5 p.m. finish without having to endure snow and rain that sometimes falls during this derby.
Early in the contest Zack Cappon, 20, of Williamson drifted a pink egg sack in the current below Ontario Street north of the village and connected with a 9-pound, 5-ounce trout that went on the board at the Naples Fire Hall at 9 a.m. and held first place with close contenders to the end.
For Zack, this was a crowning coincidence. Three years earlier, in about the same stretch of Naples Creek waters, he hooked a 9-pound, 5-ounce ’bow to win the 50th annual Naples Derby’s Grand Prize.
Later Tuesday morning, while fishing with his dad, Tim Cappon, and friend Rick Paone of Bridgeport, Zack recalled coming to Naples for the April 1 opening derby since age 5; his dad did the same with granddad. “My dad brought me here even before I could fish,” Zack said of Tim, 56, who logged his 50th year on Naples Creek this year.
Kevin Wells of Avon, another repeat winner, took the Men’s Division with a 9-pound, 1-ounce entry that went for a red egg sack at 8 a.m.
Deborah A. Van Orman of Naples showed high-five celebrations when taking the Women’s Division title with a 5-pound, 1-inch male that measured 21.1 inches.
For entrants under age 16, Wyatt Woodard of Naples won the Boys Division with a 4-pound, 6-ounce trout. Madelyn Patterson of Naples topped the Girls Division with a 5-pound, 6-ounce rainbow.
Ken Hodge, 67, of Delmar took the Over 65 Trophy with a 7.25-pound rainbow.
In species divisions for Naples residents, Jeff Denee weighed in a 7-pound, 14-ounce male rainbow to take the Jim Grove Memorial Trophy. Brandon Ball posted a 6-pound, 3-ounce female to win the Mert Woodard Memorial Award.
George Szalay, 75, of Spencerport did not take any trophies but made it to the Eel Pot section of Naples on Tuesday morning to fish with son George Szalay Jr. of Holly. After knee surgery eight weeks ago, George Sr. was able to fish Naples for the 53rd April 1 opener.
Naples Rotary has conducted this derby since 1997 with Joyce Doran coordinating it each year. This year, a flu bug kept Doran from greeting entrants at the Naples Fire Hall. Partner Jane Schenk did organizing duties and registered 337 anglers by sunrise on Tuesday.
Numbers of entrants and fish weighed in were down slightly, Schenk noted, but the fishery looked good. Retired conservation officer Gideon Hanggi liked the looks of many fish brought in that day, a total of 65 rainbow trout and one respectable brown trout.
“I’ll wait until later in the week,” Hanggi said of the rainbow run that should be good fishing later into April and possibly May.
Eel Pot, Grimes Glen, the Digger Hole and many other popular Naples Creek access sites will be busy. Special Finger Lakes regulations allow anglers to keep one rainbow trout catch daily from Naples Creek and area trout waters.
Check the state fishing regulations guide for creel counts and size limits of trout.