GASPORT — A Tonawanda man and an Appleton girl were the grand prize winners on Sunday at the 2019 Erie Barge Canal Fishing Derby Banquet at the Gasport Fire Hall.
James Nix, Jr. earned a new fishing boat, motor and trailer as the Adult Division grand prize winner, while Rebecca Thering was the grand prize winner of a new kayak in the Kids Division.
Nix Jr. and six other adults drew for the grand prize after winning their respective divisions with the top catches in the 10-day derby, which ran from July 3-14 on canal waters between the Niagara River and Albion. Nix placed first in the Northern Pike class with an 11.81-pound catch.
Other Adult Division winners honored at the banquet were North Tonawanda's Matt Clarke (carp, 26.11), Buffalo's Carleen Beback (sheephead, 12.21) and perennial champion Michael Boncore (bullhead, 1.58); Amherst's Keegan Walczak (catfish, 8.75), Wilson's Ed Mort (bass, 5.66) and Lockport's Samuel Hillman (walleye, 7.04).
Earning second-place finishes in the derby's Adult Division were Wheatfield's Rob Robel (carp), Sanborn's Rachael Izzo (sheephead); and Lockport's Matt Bedient (walleye), Tyler Hillman (bass), Wayne Hale (catfish) and Buffy Frank (bullhead).
Placing third in the derby in the Adult Division were Newfane's Richard Huryn (walleye), North Tonawanda's Daminic DiNardo (bass), past-champion Middleport's Jacob Velesko (sheephead); and Lockport's Anthony Henley (carp), William Kinney (catfish), Richard Hawes (Northern pike) and Easton Frost (bullhead).
Thering placed first in the kids' catfish class with a 5.73-pound catch. Other kids division first-place finishers honored at the banquet were North Carolina's Jakob Benzinger (bass, 2.96), Arizona's Colton Rabatin (walleye, 1.89), Gasport's Colin Udell (carp, 21.09) and Lockport's Ella Dickinson (sheephead, 7.00) and Hunter Hicks (bullhead, .95).
Derby weigh stations this year were Les Allen’s Live Bait in Lockport (433-8983), Harrington’s in Gasport (830-8434), Evans Ace Hardware (585-798-4000) and Karen’s Kollectables (585-798-5430) in Medina, Niagara Outdoors in North Tonawanda (695-5873.
The derby’s been recognized both by the state Legislature and nationally, by the United States Fish & Wildlife Service, which stocks the canal with tagged fish for free. Those catching the fish earn derby prizes, while the wildlife service tracks the fish movement.
Last year, Gasport’s Lee Hathaway and his daughter, Morgan, took home a new fishing boat, motor and trailer, a new kayak and a host of other prizes.