Cooper Gilkes shares trout tournament memories

Tournament begins at first light Saturday. — Mark Alan Lovewell

While Cooper Gilkes waited for a delivery of trout to arrive at Duarte’s Pond on Wednesday morning, he remembered trout derbies past.

“A fun part for me is watching the kids, the new little kids when they get their first trout, they come to the tent to weigh in, their eyes are like this,” he widened his, “and they’re shaking.”

He can’t remember how many years it’s been since he nervously pitched the idea of a kids’ trout derby to Paul Hotz at Lawry’s Seafood Market, probably more than 40, he said. (According to Gazette records, it’s been 44 years, beginning in 1975.)

This year’s derby takes place on Saturday, May 5, at first light at Duarte’s Pond off Lambert’s Cove Road.

Mr. Gilkes remembered a derby years ago that was held at Wiggy’s Pond.

“We had a youngster that was in a wheelchair... he didn’t think he was going to catch a fish,” Mr. Gilkes said. The child sat on the clubhouse porch over the water. Almost right away, he got a bite, a big trout. His father hurled himself over the rail onto the bank below and grabbed a net.

“I told him I said it’s not a good net, don’t use that net! He was just so excited for his son, scoops the fish, and the fish went right through the net,” Mr. Gilkes said. “He was devastated.”

But 10 minutes later, the child got another one.

“I said, I’ll net this one. So we went down and we caught it. And he won,” he said. “That was a real special one for me.”

Cliff Meehan leaned on the bed of a pick-up nearby, listening. “Tell the story about when you were all loaded up the night before and the coon got in your truck,” he said.

Mr. Gilkes laughed.

“Imagine, my truck is just packed with stuff, okay. Friday we make the run. We pick up the hotdogs, we pick up the hot chocolate, we pick up the coffee. We pick up everything. Donuts,” he gestured toward the truck.

“My window, I didn’t realize it was down about this far,” he said, holding up his hands a few inches apart. He woke up on the morning of the derby, at about 3 a.m. and went out to the truck. He smelled chocolate.

“I had chocolate from one end of my truck to the other. The coon had gone in through the window, got into the chocolate. That’s all he ate was the chocolate.”

They were five pound bags. Laughing, Mr. Gilkes said there was even chocolate in the heater.

“Every time you turned the heater on in the car, chocolate would come out. I was so mad.”

Before long, a blue truck came down the dirt road through the parking lot at Duarte’s Pond, drove over the grass, and backed up to the dock. Keith Wilda of Blue Stream Aquaculture got out and climbed into the bed, and opened two metal containers.

Net by flapping net, the small group of volunteers from the Rod and Gun Club carried the fish from the truck to the water. This was the first of two shipments. The next one would come Thursday morning. An osprey circled overhead.

Mr. Wilda scooped out a 10-pounder, more than two feet long. The volunteers christened her “Moby Trout.”

“That fish is older than my kids,” Mr. Wilda said.

After the trout were all let go, euphorically jumping with their first taste of open water, Mr. Gilkes and Ray Long stood on the dock watching the osprey.

After hovering and banking and circling, the bird made its dive, snatching a small trout from the water.

“Zooom,” said Mr. Gilkes, squinting past the brim of his hat. “Well, there goes $2.50.”

The annual trout derby is free for kids 0-14 and includes hot dogs, donuts, coffee and hot chocolate, along with lots of prizes.