Lockport Little Loop Football president and volunteer coach Richie Blackburn and Gasport's George Frombgen are among the adult division winners in the 2012 Erie Canal Fishing Derby, which concluded Sunday.
The names of official derby division winners for both adults and youths were released late Monday by event founder and director Steve Harrington of Gasport, who reminds participants and others that the annual Canal Derby Award's Banquet is slated for 3 p.m. this Sunday at the Gasport Fire Hall.
There, Blackburn and Frombgen, along with five other adult division winners, will draw for a new boat and trailer, courtesy of Bryce Marina in Rochester. Seven kids division winners will draw for a new canal trail bike and the derby's four fishermen who caught “tagged” fish will also receive their prizes.
About 1,500 people participated in the 22nd annual derby, which runs for about 10 days every summer along canal waters between Albion and the Tonawandas.
Blackburn, fishing with his son, Damani, 13, caught the biggest fish in the adult bullhead class at 1.49 pounds.
“I've been pretty much fishing since the age of seven,” said Blackburn, 40. “For the past few years, I've been taking my vacation from work during the derby, getting up at 5 a.m. every day, fishing until noon, then going back out and fishing until 7 p.m. It's given me a tremendous opportunity this year to spend a lot of quality time with my son.”
After catching his prized bullhead, Blackburn had it weighed at Les Allen Bait & Tackle on Hawley Street, knowing it would be close.
“I knew I had a good one. I tried weighing it on a digital scale I brought along with me, but I wasn't too sure how accurate it was,” Blackburn said.
“It's my first time winning. I'm excited about it and thinking of maybe challenging another category. It's all about the bait — and I've got a few good secrets — and the presentation and a whole lotta luck.”
Among other adult division winners are Gasport's George Frombgen, who hauled in the top bass at 4.04 pounds. Frombgen, a Derby winner about a decade ago and a Derby participant every year since Day One, saved the best for last this year.
“I caught it at the end of the last day,” said Frombgen, who made his big catch next to the Gasport canal lift bridge. “Nothing was biting this year. It was so hot.”
Other official adult division winners are Codie Thomas of Grand Island, (catfish,10.02 pounds), Joshua Staley of Virginia (carp, 24.22), Medina's Todd Wells (sheephead, 10.35), Tonawanda's Mike Boncore, (Northern Pike, 5.64); and North Tonawanda's Janet Wright (walleye, 7.58).
Meanwhile, three kids division winners are Lockportians. Lee Kelkenberg won the kids bullhead class (1.17), Stephanie Wise took first in the Northern Pike kids class (3.63) and Chris Akers was tops in the kids walleye division (4.09).
Other official kids division winners are Cheektowaga's Chad Beyer (catfish, 6.05) and Zack Beyer (carp, 17.13), Grand Island's Randy Thomas (bass, 2.91); and Medina's Hunter Ottaviano (sheephead, 8.70).
Grand Island's Connor Cinelli caught the fourth “tagged” fish in the derby, tag No. 048, on Sunday in Tonawanda. The sponsor of the tag is Halstead's Plumbing and Heating of Middleport.
Besides Les Allen, 2012 derby weigh stations were Wiggeling Willies on Oliver Street, North Tonawanda; Niagara Outdoors, Witmer Road, NT; Harrington’s, Telegraph Road, Gasport; Middleport Sports Shop, Main Street, Middleport; and Jeddo Bait & Tackle, Ridge Road, Medina.
Harrington said winners will be notified by a phone call this week.
“Everything went pretty smoothly this year,” Harrington said. “Hopefully, next year is even bigger.”
2012 CANAL DERBY OFFICIAL WINNERS
Adult: Codie Thomas, Grand Island, 10.02
Kids: Chad Beyer, Cheektowaga 6.05
Adult: Joshua Staley, Virginia, 24.22
Kids: Zack Beyer, Cheektowaga, 17.13
Adult: Richard Blackburn, Lockport 1.49
Kids: Lee Kelkenberg, Lockport 1.17
Adult: George Frombgen, Gasport, 4.04
Kids: Randy Thomas, Grand Island, 2.91
Adult: Todd Wells, Medina, 10.35
Kids: Hunter Ottaviano, Medina, 8.70
Adult: Mike Boncore, Tonawanda, 5.64
Kids: Stephanie Wise, Lockport, 3.63
Adult: Janet Wright, North Tonawanda, 7.58
Kids: Chris Akers, Lockport, 4.09