Daniel Miller

Tioga County resident Daniel Miller caught the winning fish, a 10.14-pounder, in this year’s National Lake Trout Derby. For the first time, a landlocked salmon took home the grand prize. Miller is pictured with Casey Fick, events coordinator for Stivers Seneca Marine.

WATERLOO — When it comes to great angling adventures during Memorial Day weekend in the Finger Lakes, Seneca Lake gets the nod for excitement. Of course, the iconic National Lake Trout Derby is the reason.

The 2020 event was the 56th annual run of the world’s second-longest fishing derby. That in itself deserves bragging rights, but pulling off a successful event during the COVID-19 pandemic is testament to the resilience of everyone involved.

In what could be considered somewhat amazing during these trying times, 632 anglers registered for the three-day tournament. And, 100% of the entry fees went to the prize fund.

That’s all fantastic news, but there is more. For the first time in the history of the derby, the $10,000 grand prize fish was not a trout. Instead, it was a landlocked salmon.

Derby winner Daniel Miller, 55, of Spencer, Tioga County, was fishing with his brother Dick, 57, of Willseyville, Tioga County. The two tried the north end of Seneca Lake, but it didn’t produce.

“We decided to try the south end of the lake,” said Dick, the older of the two Miller anglers.

So, the brothers launched their 18-foot Blue fin boat at Watkins Glen early Saturday morning.

The landlocked salmon was hooked very quickly after they put the boat in at the public site.

“It was 35 minutes from the launch to the box,” Daniel laughed.

The fish hit a Honey Bee Stinger Flutter spoon. The spoon was on a downrigger at 18 feet, over 120 feet of water.

“The lure was probably back 100 feet behind the boat,” Daniel reported.

The brothers said the water temperature at Watkins was 42 degrees, while the Geneva end of the lake was in the 50s.

“We found a thermocline at the south end,” Dick explained.

The winning fish was caught around 7 a.m. Saturday. It weighed 10.14 pounds.

After mentioning that during the 56 years of the derby there has never been a repeat winner, Dick announced, “Well, you’ll see a repeat next year.”

Bob Stivers, from Stivers Seneca Marine and president of Finger Lakes Sports-O-Rama, applauded everyone involved for working hard to make the derby a success during a difficult time.

“Everyone at Stivers Marine, Aflac, and Bank of Finger Lakes pulled together to make sure the 56th annual National Lake Trout Derby occurred during this pandemic.”

For a complete listing of all the division leaders, visit www.laketroutderby.org/current-standings or see Wednesday’s edition of the Times.

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