Opening day for trout fishing in Finger Lakes tributaries is April 1. This date is etched in the brains of many anglers. While it obviously heralds springtime, the feat of hooking a rainbow trout from the flowing waters of a stream is a ritual of excitement.

Because of COVID-19, all activities have been either scaled down or canceled — but there is great news for Naples anglers. This year marks the 60th anniversary of the Naples Creek Trout Derby.

The folks at the Naples Rotary Club had to cancel last year, but they are back in 2021 — and that’s no April Fool’s joke. This year, it will be a virtual event.

“After canceling the 2020 Trout Derby due to COVID, we are disappointed that we still can’t have our normal event,” a spokesperson said on Facebook. “This year would’ve been the 60th Naples Creek Rainbow Trout Derby. (1961-2021) Unfortunately, our only option to canceling the derby again this year is to try to do it virtually using an app on a smart phone and extend the one-day event to four days.

“The Naples Rotary Club sincerely apologizes to those fishermen who can’t participate due to technology restrictions. We know that we will miss many of you who have supported this derby for decades. This is one of our main fund raisers, and we are also disappointed, and will miss you. We can only go forward the best we can this year and be extremely optimistic that we’ll go back to the in-person derby next year where we can sign-up at Sutton’s, shake hands with old friends, and go to the fire hall to get a fish weighed and measured. Until then, we hope everyone will get out there and enjoy fishing in Naples, regardless of if you enter the Derby or not.”

The Naples Rotary offered a special thank you to the Sutton Co. for being an integral part of the Derby for so many years.

Find details about this year’s Derby on the event’s Facebook page at www.facebook.com/naplestroutderby.

If you are not on Facebook, follow these instructions to sign up.

• Download the FishDonkey app.

• Join “Naples Creek.”

• Follow the instructions on app.

Type www.fishdonkey.com/app into your internet browser if you’re have trouble finding the app to download.

No rainbow sampling events

New York State Department of Environmental Conservation’s acting regional director, Tim Walsh, announced recently the rainbow trout sampling events for Naples Creek in Ontario County and Cold Brook in Steuben County will not be held as a precautionary measure to prevent the community spread of COVID-19.

These events, which have been held annually since the 1960s with a few exceptions, often draw large crowds. Last year, DEC canceled the annual events following the COVID-19 outbreak.

For information about DEC’s efforts to support healthy fish populations in waters across New York state, visit www.dec.ny.gov/outdoor/fishing.html.

In-person hunter ed to resume

DEC will resume holding in-person, instructor-led Hunter Education Program courses starting April 1.

DEC will continue to offer online hunter education courses, also.

COVID-19 safety protocols will be followed in every in-person course, including health screening upon arrival, mandatory face coverings, social distancing, smaller class sizes, and sanitizing hands and equipment.

In-person courses are free and taught by volunteer HEP instructors. Courses are offered in hunter, bowhunter, trapper, and waterfowl. Registration is required, and all in-person courses require mandatory homework that must be completed prior to participating in the class.

For more information, or to register for a HEP course, visit www.dec.ny.gov/outdoor/7860.html.

Although the number of courses offered may be limited this spring, interested participants are encouraged to check back often as new courses may be added.

Online courses are available too. The cost of the online HEP course is $19.95. Find the course at www.hunter-ed.com/newyork/.

DEC also continues to offer an online bowhunter education course. Find that at www.bowhunter-ed.com/newyork/.

Since last March, DEC has seen more than a 12% increase in hunting and fishing license sales compared to numbers from the previous 12-month period. During this time, which roughly coincides with New York State on PAUSE, resident turkey permits have increased more than 13% and junior hunting licenses increased by more than 25%. Certain types of lifetime licenses also increased by as much as 50%. A combination of factors, including the availability of online hunter education for new hunters and more time available to participate in the hunting and other activities as New Yorkers looked for recreational options during the pandemic, likely contributed to the increase.

Bald eagle in flight

Recent high winds damaged one of the wings on the bald eagle sculpture along the Wildlife Drive at the Montezuma National Wildlife Refuge.

Refuge staff brought the sculpture to the shop, where it will be repaired by the original artist. There is no date for when the eagle will re-land on its perch.

Since being erected a few years ago, the sculpture has caught the attention of motorists traveling between exits 40 and 41 on the New York State Thruway, as Wildlife Life is just a few yards south of the eastbound lane.

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

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