Many prizes given away at July 21 Erie Canal Derby Banquet
By John D'Onofrio Lockport Union-Sun & Journal
A Niagara Falls man was the grand prize winner July 21 of a new fishing boat and trailer at the 2013 Erie Barge Canal Fishing Derby Awards Banquet at the Gasport Fire Hall.
Jason Whitmer’s name was picked in a drawing between the derby’s seven Adult Division winners. Sunday’s other grand prize winner of a new canal trail bike was Sanborn’s Colby Lawrence, one of six Kids Division winners.
About 100 derby participants and their families attended the awards ceremony, hosted by Derby founder and chairman Steve Harrington, along with his wife, Lynn, and several members of the extended Harrington family.
Whitmer won the adult bullhead division this year with a 1.88-pound catch during the 12-day derby (July 3-14) in canal waters between Albion and the Tonawandas.
Other adult division winners earning prizes were Lockport’s Tyler Caltagirone (walleye), Middleport’s Jacob Velesko (sheephead), Grand Island’s Codie Thomas (catfish), Tonawanda’s Joe Henneberger (carp) and North Tonawanda’s Shawn Krull (bass) and Duane Brosius (Northern Pike).
Colby drew for the Kids Division grand prize after placing first in the carp classification with a 20.51-pound catch. Other Kids Division winners earning prizes were Lockport’s Sara Caltagirone (catfish), North Tonawanda’s Adam DiNardo, Buffalo’s Kaevon Rollins and Albion’s Tim Drake. There was no Kids Division winner in the walleye class this year.
DiNardo, 12, who attends Drake Elementary in NT, said he was excited about winning his division because his brother, Dominic, was a Derby division winner just a few years ago.
“It was a lot of fun. I fished for about six hours a day all week long,” he said. “I got a lot of bites, but my dad caught a lot more fish than I did.”
Meanwhile, on his way to the derby banquet at the Gasport Volunteer Fire Hall, Velesko and his father, Jerry, were already thinking about next year.
“They were talking strategy for the 2014 derby in the car on the way here,” said Rose (Distefano) Velesko, Jacob’s mom.
“It was the biggest one I ever caught, but I didn’t know I finished in first place until I got a phone call,” Jacob said. “When I caught it, my dad was like, ‘Oh my God, don’t lose it, don’t lose it.’ It took me about 15 minutes to reel it in.”
Jacob, 9, a fifth grader at Medina, said the best part of being in the derby was the time he spent with his family.
“It was a lot of fun fishing with my dad and mom. We saw some some funny things. We saw a deer crossing the canal once. It was hilarious. I fished in the derby every single day. You never know when you’re going to get a hit on something and maybe win a prize.”
Veteran Derby participant James Kelkenberg of Lockport placed third this year in the adult Northern Pike class, but held the division lead for a few days. He said the only negative thing about the derby was the recent downpour.
“It was awful muddy after that rain,” said James, who was accompanied by his son, Lee, a past Derby division winner.
Also attending was Lockport’s Jonathan Frey, 13, an incoming freshman at Lockport High School, and the grandson of former Lockport alderman Alvin Frey, who placed second in the walleye class with a 6.21-pound catch.
“I’ve won daily prizes in the Derby before, but this is the highest I’ve finished,” Jonathan said, adding that he had his fish weighed at Les Allen Bait & Tackle on Hawley Street in Lockport.
Prizes were also given out for the three Derby participants who caught tagged fish. They are Lockport’s Jeff Kinney, Tonawanda’s Emma Sexton and Gasport’s George Frombgen, who has never missed a Derby or awards banquet since it began 23 years ago.