For the fourth time in a row, a record-breaking number of fishermen registered for the Upper Pine Creek Trout Tournament held this past Saturday and Sunday, May 20 and 21 along a 13-mile stretch of Pine Creek between the Mill Street Bridge in Galeton Borough, Potter County and the Ansonia Bridge on Colton Road in Shippen Township, Tioga County.
The 712 anglers that registered caught a total of 167 of the 250 tagged trout, 135 on Saturday and 32 on Sunday. That translates to 66.8 percent of the tagged fish being caught.
In 2019, 518 anglers registered for the tournament, which was not held in 2020 due to COVID-19. In 2021, 644 registered, and in 2022, 677.
Albert DiMassimo of Montoursville won the top prize, $1,000 in cash. Four other fishermen each won $500 in cash thanks to the luck of the draw. Six $500 cash awards were listed on the prize board along with the $1,000.
“I fish about 125 days a year and constantly monitor the water flow by checking a river gauge,” said DiMassimo. “On Saturday, May 20, the water flow in Pine Creek was the lowest I had ever seen. Normally, it’s about 3½ at this time of year but it was only 1½. It made it harder to fish because the water was low and clear so the trout were easily spooked,” he said.
Around 11 a.m. on Saturday, DiMassimo was fishing at Rexford when he caught the first of two tagged trout and his friend Jay Ross of Salladasburg caught three more.
“I kept telling Jay that I wanted to draw the first Ping-Pong ball in honor of my father who passed away in 2017. We enjoyed coming to this tournament together and aIways had a lot of fun,” said DiMassimo.
“Jay was standing right next to me when I drew Ping-Pong ball #32 and was toId I had won $1,000 in cash. Neither of us could believe it. Sometimes you wonder. I feIt my father was with me,” he said.
“When I reached in for a Ping-Pong ball, I pulled out the first one my fingers touched. It was right at the top. I’ve won more money since my father passed away than I ever did before,” said DiMassimo.
“Jay drew four balls for prizes this year, including his three and the one for my second tagged fish. We ended up with $150 in cash, a $50 gift certificate and an electric lamp that he drew, and the $1,000 I drew. We’re planning to share the lamp, too. We’ll each keep it for six months,” DiMassimo laughed. “My father’s thing was if you were fishing with someone, you split what you won 50/50 and that’s what Jay and I do.”
“We fished on Sunday and didn’t catch any trout at all,” he said.
DiMassimo has participated in this tournament 22 times since 2002. This is the second year for Ross. Both plan to return in 2023.
“In 2022, Jay’s first tournament, he pulled $700 in prizes for us. That year, I caught four tagged trout and he caught one,” DiMassimo said.
At the 2021 Upper Pine Creek Trout tournament, DiMassimo caught three tagged trout, drew three Ping-Pong balls, one for $500 and two for $50 each and took home $600 in cash. “I was fishing alone that year so I drew the Ping-Pong balls myself. Usually, the person I’m fishing with does it for both of us,” he said.
“It all comes down to the luck of the draw,” said Snowmobile Club President Jim Baney. Participants must bring their tagged fish in “live condition” to the snowmobile clubhouse where they draw a numbered Ping-Pong ball for each tagged trout they catch. The number on the ball is matched to the number on the club’s prize board to identify what the angler has won. “Anglers like the ball draw because everyone has an equal chance to win our largest cash prizes rather than those who happen to catch the ‘right’ fish,” Baney said.
The turnout was great for the free “Start a Kid Fishing” program for youngsters 12 and under. “We ran out of everything, rods and reels, tackle boxes and other equipment but with the help of those who donate items, we will do it again in 2024,” said Baney.
Visit www.pagrandcanyonsnowmobileclub.com for more information.