The folks at Stivers Seneca Marine waited and hoped that one of the area’s iconic fishing contests could go ahead as planned in 2020.

Their patience was rewarded.

The 56th annual National Lake Trout Derby will happen. It begins Friday morning and concludes at noon May 25.

After all, what would Seneca Lake be without this fishing event on Memorial Day weekend?

“We were approved by the (state) health department to still have the derby,” said Casey Fick, events and marketing coordinator for Stivers Seneca Marine. “Obviously, we have to take precautions and make sure that we are distancing when possible and sanitizing at the weigh stations, but this fishing derby shall go on.”

Fick said organizers continue to accept registrations at Stivers Seneca Marine and at Some hotels and motels are offering lodging during the coronavirus pandemic, but participants should troll who is open and who isn’t before making reservations.

While the derby will go forward as planned, it will look quite a bit different this year. Here are all the pertinent rules.


• Online registrations are accepted until 5 p.m. Friday. Stivers Seneca Marine will accept walk-in registrations until 7 a.m. May 23, and at Roy’s Marina during normal business hours.

• The only weigh station will be Stivers Seneca Marine in Waterloo. Participants are encouraged to limit trips to the weigh station by checking the live online standings regularly during the derby.

• Prize money will be prorated based on the number of entrants. In addition to the grand prize, first, second and third places will be paid in all of the derby’s species and other divisions. Anglers should check the derby web page Saturday, after the registration money is tallied, for the official prize money.

• The awards ceremony, which is normally mid-afternoon on the final Monday, is canceled. Prizes will be mailed.

• Fish only with those family members and friends you have lived with or interacted with regularly during the coronavirus crisis. Do not congregate.

• The $4,000 cash prize raffle will be postponed until 2021. All tickets sold will be put in the 2021 drawing.

Weigh Station Protocol

When you arrive at Stivers Seneca Marine, whether by boat or car, please blow your horn or call the marine at (315) 789-5520 to let officials know of your arrival. Only one boat/car at a time will be allowed at the weigh tent.

• Remain 6 feet apart while at the weigh station.

• Return to your boat/car immediately after your fish are entered.

Fishing charters can open in phase 1

The great news for the trout derby was great news for fishing charter services as well. Charter services are allowed to reopen as part of phase 1 of the state’s reopening plan.

The guidelines were made available Wednesday. Charter captains and all other business owners are asked to visit for any changes and updates.

Here are links to the Short Guidelines & Master Guidelines that were added to the fishing category:

Commercial Fishing Services and For Hire Vessels Guidelines for Employers and Employees,

Commercial Fishing Services and For Hire Vessels Guidelines,

Each reopening business must develop a written Safety Plan outlining how its workplace will prevent the spread of COVID-19. A business may fill out the template at, or develop its own Safety Plan.

Coast Guard cautions boaters

The Coast Guard reminds recreational boaters and paddlers to be aware of the risks involving cold-water drownings. Even as the area temperatures are forecast to rise into the 70s this week, it will take waterways weeks to catch up. Always wear a life jacket while out on the water. There is no time to don a life jacket when an accident or emergency occurs. The best vest is the one you wear when you leave shore.

“While hypothermia is a real concern, the true cause of most drownings this time of year is the rapid loss of one’s ability to swim or tread water due to cold-water immersion,” said Capt. Nathan Coulter, chief of incident management for the 13th Coast Guard District. “Water temperatures in lakes and rivers are still near 50 degrees. If you enter water at those temperatures without a wet suit or personal flotation device, you may have less than 10 minutes to survive. Stay safe by dressing for the water temperature, not the air temperature.”

According to Frank Golden and Michael Tipton, internationally recognized experts in cold-water survival, water below 60 degrees Fahrenheit is immediately life-threatening. Sudden cold-water immersion makes it difficult, if not impossible, for boaters to keep their heads above water and stay afloat.

Boating fatality statistics have shown that wearing a life jacket gives boaters the best chance of survival in the event of an accident, especially in cold water.

Small vessels such as kayaks, canoes, rafts, row boats, paddle boards, sailing vessels and open motorboats less than 21 feet long are the most vulnerable to capsizing.

Wear personal protective clothing, including dry or wet suits.

Boaters don’t just need to wear the proper gear but also need to equip their boats with required and recommended safety gear, such as a hand-held VHF-FM marine-band radio, a personal locator beacon and flares. File a float plan. Take the time to write your contact information, with a waterproof permanent marker, on your kayak, paddle board or other personal watercraft. A name, address and phone number can assist first responders in locating you, should your vessel be found. New and inexperienced boaters should seek education before heading out on the water. Safety courses are offered through the U.S. Coast Guard Auxiliary and other state and local agencies, which are often offered at little to no cost.

Chris Kenyon’s “Outdoors” appears every other Sunday. Contact Chris at (315) 879-1341 or

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