WELLSVILLE — As the temperatures warm up and the waters of the Genesee River swell, avid fishermen would normally be looking forward to the annual Greater Wellsville Trout Derby, always scheduled for the end of April.
Even though some may still be looking forward to pulling on waders or sitting in the sun with a rod and reel balanced on a knee, it won’t be for a 32nd annual derby. After losing money when COVID-19 restrictions canceled the 2020 derby, the Wellsville Lions Club decided in October not to host the event this spring.
Dean Arnold, who has headed up the derby in the past, said that as the pandemic continued club members looked at the restrictions in place and decided to hold off one more year.
“It was time to order the fish,” he said. “We’d already put 450 to 475 trout in the river before the 2020 derby was canceled. At least it kept the river going and stocked, but we didn’t want to lose another order of fish.”
The loss of the cost of fish wasn’t the only reason the club voted to cancel the 2021 derby.
Arnold said the Lions have worked with the state Department of Environmental Conservation and the Allegany County Department of Public Health. Large group gatherings have been restricted to no more than 500 — the derby typically registers between 2,000 and 3,000 participants.
And even though they line the riverbank over the 14-mile length of the derby course, there was no way to make sure people were following the restrictions set forth under coronavirus protocols.
But the cost of fish and crowd limitations weren’t the only reason to cancel he derby, Arnold said. For the 2020 derby the club had lost money on printing registration forms, advertisements and posters to the tune of $8,500. In such uncertain times, the Lions Club did not want to be on the hook again.
Ultimately, the derby, while offering fishermen the chance to catch up to $25,000 in sponsored fish, is the Wellsville Lions Club’s biggest fundraiser. Funds from the event help to support Lions’ projects, local charities, libraries and individuals and organizations that request help.
“We usually only keep enough from the funds the derby raises each year to buy fish and get the next derby started,” Arnold said.
And in view of the fact that the club’s second largest fundraiser, the annual variety show, has also been canceled for the last two years due to COVID-19, the club made a decision.
“We opted to host a lot of smaller fundraising activities, such as raffles and $250 clubs this year,” Arnold said.
If all goes well in recovering from the pandemic, the Lions Club hopes to be planning the 2022 Greater Wellsville Trout Derby for next April.