Super fishing expected at Denison's annual Family Trout Derby

By Lynn Burkhead
For the Herald Democrat

As this first weekend in February arrives on the calendar, it’s finally time for the big event. Oh yeah, and you can also watch the Super Bowl this weekend too.

Because a day before Tom Brady and Patrick Mahomes square off in Super Bowl LV, the big event on the local outdoors scene is the 17th annual Family Fellowship Trout Derby at Denison’s Waterloo Lake Park Pond.

According to Andrew Means, recreation manager for the City of Denison’s Parks and Recreation Department, the Saturday event starts at 9 a.m. and continues through 11:30 a.m.

That’s when families can cast a line towards more than 1,500 catchable size rainbow trout planted earlier this week by the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department as well as trying to land a few prize winning opportunities.

“We’ll have a number of awards and door prizes to give away,” said Means. “There will be prizes awarded for the biggest trout, the smallest trout, and heaviest stringer in both age groups (adults and youth).”

Means said that there will also be a number of golden trout and tagged trout stocked and an angler who catches one of those special fish also stands a chance at winning a prize.

Open to all ages, the two age divisions are youth (age 16 and under) and adults (age 17 and older). The cost for youth to enter the event is $5 for residents of Denison, $7 for non-residents. The entry fees for adults will be $7 for D-Town residents and $10 for non-residents.

In addition to the prize winning potential mentioned above, there will also be a casting contest put on by TPWD on Saturday morning. Means said that as with most other fishing derbies at the park pond, the first 50 registrants will get a free hat too. And to top it all off, food and drink is available with lunch being provided.

“It should be a great time,” said Means. “Earlier in the week, it looked like it might be pretty cold, but now, it looks like the weather will be a little chilly to begin with on Saturday morning and warming quickly through the day.”

When the City of Denison held its annual Howard Caylor trout derby last month, the attendance was down due to chilly early January temperatures and the ongoing effects of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Means said that crowds for this weekend’s event are certainly looking like they’ll be larger and that has caused some changes to already take place.

“When I looked at the registrations this week, we were nearing 80, and that’s all we can have right now,” said Means. “So unfortunately, we had to stop accepting pre-event registrations.

“Normally, we can take more than 80 people, but if we do that now, we can’t guarantee participants a chance to socially distance. I hate to turn anyone away, but we had to do the same thing at our catfish rodeo last summer too.”

As happened last summer at the catfish rodeo, Means noted that others wanting to participate still have a chance for that to happen since there could be some no-shows on the morning of the event. In addition, as derby participants catch their limit and finish up on Saturday morning, the opportunity will open up for additional anglers to participate as time and space allow.

“Because it’s an outdoor event and people will be socially distancing from one another, wearing a mask isn’t required, but I certainly wouldn’t recommend against it either,” said Means. “And while we won’t be able to completely enforce the six-foot mark for social distancing around the pond, given the ongoing pandemic, it is certainly highly encouraged.”

While the ongoing response to the COVID-19 pandemic has obviously brought a few changes to Denison’s popular fishing derbies in recent months, what hasn’t changed is the opportunity to catch a limit of hungry trout, win a few prizes, take home a good meal, and have a lot of angling fun at a time of the year when little else is biting.

“These derbies are among the most popular things that we do each year, and I’m glad that we’ve been able to keep offering them to the people of Denison as well as the other folks living around Texomaland,” said Means. “There’s not a lot I can guarantee when it comes to fishing, but I certainly think that most people who participate in these derbies will smile, laugh, and have a chance to catch a few fish.

“There will be a lot of trout in the pond and everyone should enjoy the event, certainly from a weather standpoint. And by the way, like I always remind anglers, all state of Texas fishing rules and regulations apply.”

What does all of this fish talk mean? Well, while you might not win a Lombardi Trophy in Denison this weekend, you can still have a super time, catch some fish, and take home a prize. And what’s not to like about that, especially on a nice Saturday morning in early February?

For information on this weekend’s Family Fellowship Trout Derby, call Denison Parks and Rec at 903-463-1115 or visit the City of Denison’s website at www.cityofdenison.com/parksrec.