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Fishing for the governor at Claytor Lake

By WILLIAM PAINE

william.paine@southwesttimes.com

The Governor’s Fishing Challenge took place Monday at Claytor Lake State Park even though the Governor of Virginia, Ralph Northam, was not able to come as planned.

The Governor’s Fishing Challenge was a free event open to all Virginia state employees according to Paige Pearson, Public Relations Manager for the Department of Game and Inland Fisheries.

“Today we have the first ever Governor’s Fishing Challenge, which is just a bunch of state employees that are getting together to get out on the water to catch some fish. It’s part of the governor’s On the Square Initiative, which is trying to get people outdoors. It’s just something fun we can do as state employees, so it’s not just work, work, work all the time.”

There is no shortage of lakes in Virginia, so the Southwest Times asked how they ended up in Pulaski County.

“Our fish chief and all of his staff came together and said Claytor Lake is probably the best bet for catching Bass. It’s a beautiful lake as you see and it’s big enough to house all these people, so we’re excited to get down here.”

The Governor’s Fishing Challenge was done in partnership with the DGIF, the Department of Conservation and Recreation, the General Services Department and the Virginia Lottery, many of whose representatives stayed overnight before the contest.

There were three ways to participate in the Governor’s Fishing Challenge, the most popular being by motorboat. Forty-two boats plowed the waters of Claytor as part of the contest. Thirty-two kayaks entered the Governor’s Fishing Challenge, which attests to the growing popularity of fishing by kayak. Twenty or so decided to stay on shore and try their luck.

One of those land lubbers was Brandon Martin, who works as an HVAC technician at James Madison University. “I do my best work on the bank,” said Martin. “I’m not well balanced enough to be out on the water. I’ll stay dry and stay here.”

The contest began at 7 a.m. sharp and Martin had already caught his first fish. “We left at 4:15 this morning from Mount Crawford. I rode down with a buddy who is fishing out of a Kayak. We’ve never been here. This is our first time so, if nothing else, it’s a way to say we fished someplace new.”

Martin unhooked his fish and then took a photograph of it next to the tape measure. The Governor’s Fishing Challenge is a catch and release contest that requires each angler to take a photo of his fish next to a measuring devise to document its length. Anglers in boats competed for the largest bass or the largest group of five bass until 2 p.m. when the weigh-in began. This was, of course, not a traditional weigh in because there were no fish to weigh. Instead teams of biologists from the DGIF studied photographs of fish sent by the fishermen to determine which was the greatest length.

Top prize winners of the Governor’s Fishing Challenge received a knife celebrating the 100th anniversary of the DGIF and a stay in a Claytor Lake State Park cabin. The angler who caught the biggest bass or group of bass from a motorboat received this as well, plus a Virginia State flag that had flown from the top of the capitol in Richmond.

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