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Steelhead Derby continues growing into fourth year

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First place winner Ty Birdwell shows off his trophy, carved and donated by the Cowlitz Indian Tribe, during the fourth-annual Steelhead Derby in Toledo Saturday. Birdwell also walked away with a $300 prize for his win, after catching a 10 lb 13.5 oz steelhead.

Local anglers upped the ante at the Toledo Steelhead Derby last Saturday with winning catches weighing in at more than, or close to, 10 lbs each.

While still trailing behind the derby record of 15 lbs caught in 2012, this year’s winner was a 10 lb 13.5 oz steelhead caught by Ty Birdwell, followed by a 10 lb 5.5 oz steelhead caught by Katrina Buswell and a 9 lb 9 oz steelhead caught by Michael O’Neal. Each received a cash prize of $300, $200 and $100, respectively, while Birdwell also received a commemorative trophy carved and donated by members of the Cowlitz Indian Tribe.

“I think it’s going to get bigger and better every year,” said organizer Rick Lovell of the increasing participation at the derby, stating more than 60 anglers had been out since early that morning catching fish along the Cowlitz River, up 10 from last year, with 33 participants bringing back a catch for weighing.

Again this year was a mystery weight revealed at the end of the derby to help encourage all participants to stay until the end, as the closest to the weight won a $50 prize. This year’s weight was 6 lbs 1 oz, and the closest catch belonged to Robert Buswell at 6 lbs 5 oz.

Youth were also allowed to participate, and even do so for free if they are 14 and younger, and this year the largest fish caught among the kids was a 8 lb 15.5 oz steelhead caught by Benton Grove, who walked away with a number of prized provided by some of the many sponsors for the event.

“They went out of their way,” said Lovell of the support showed by sponsors, which included local shops and restaurants as well as, and resulted in enough prizes for items to be raffled off to all participants.

As far as reaching out to area businesses, Lovell said he is looking for more volunteers to help get an earlier start on organizing the event for next year, stating he hopes to begin many months in advance.

“We’re going to be talking to a lot more people and getting bigger and better prizes,” he said, adding many have already been drawn to the event during the last four years due to effective word-of-mouth.

To learn how to become involved in next year’s steelhead derby, as well as to look for event details, go to the derby website at www.toledosteelheadfishingderby.com.

A BBQ for anglers was made available after the derby, cooked by volunteers and featuring salmon donated by the Cowlitz Indian Tribe.

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