Top prize not netted at trout derby

More than 450 people registered for the 27th annual Upper Pine Creek Trout Tournament on May 20-21, but no one walked away with the top prize of $1,000 in cash. Two of the 461 anglers won $500 cash.

Of the 250 tagged fish stocked in Pine Creek by the Pennsylvania Grand Canyon Snowmobile Club, 122 were caught, 91 on Saturday and 31 on Sunday.

“This year we had a whopping $14,000 in prizes,” said club President Jim Baney.

Anglers who caught tagged fish brought them in “live condition” to the check-in station and drew a numbered ping-pong ball. The number on the ball matched with one on a board to identify the prize.

“The anglers like the ping-pong ball draw better because everyone has an equal chance to win our largest cash prize rather than the angler who happens to catch the ‘right fish,’ “ Baney said.

Aaron Smith, 35, of Elkland, was a $500 cash winner. He’s been fishing in the tournament since he was 16. This was the first for his son, Andrew, 14.

Between 6:30 and 8 a.m. on May 20, Smith caught two tagged trout; his son caught one. They were fishing near the Grub Hole and using redfin minnows. All three fish arrived alive at the clubhouse in a five-gallon bucket. The Smiths drew numbers that netted each of them $25 in cash and a $25 sporting goods store gift certificate.

“I told my son we would split everything 50/50. When the lady told me I had won $500 in cash, my son couldn’t believe it. I don’t know how I will spend my half, but my son is planning to buy a new pair of waders. He found a hole in his this weekend.”

This was the first time Denis Dorward, of Sinking Spring, entered any fishing tournament. On May 20, he and three friends, all from the Reading area, parked not far from the check-in station, walked half a mile along a snowmobile trail parallel to Pine Creek, and began fishing near Pine Creek Outfitters.

Around 9 a.m., Dorward was alone when he caught a tagged fish on a red worm.

“I put some water and my trout in a plastic bag and began walking to our truck. I wasn’t sure the fish was going to make it. One of my buddies drove me to check in,” he said.

He reached into the bucket of ping-pong balls and pulled out the number 247.

“When I was told I had won $500 in cash, I didn’t believe it,” he said.

The group continued to fish but no one else caught a tagged fish. They had been coming to Tioga County for the opening of trout season for 10 years, but when it fell on Easter weekend, they decided to come to this year’s tournament instead.

“Next year we will probably be at this tournament,” Dorward said.

Darlene Bizzak, of Wilcox in Elk County, has been entering fishing tournaments for the past 10 years and was looking for one on the Internet.

“I had never heard of it before,” she said.

On May 20, she caught two trout on wax worms near Berger Lake in Galeton, picked two numbers and won two $50 cash prizes. “We’ll be back,” she said.

The money raised through the tournament will help cover the club’s annual operating expenses, maintain and groom area snowmobile trails, provide scholarships to three graduating high school seniors and assist families with special needs and local charities.

For information about the tournament or the club, visit