Southern Oregon's most popular trout-fishing derby has a new wrinkle in it this year, and it's one that literally can net a participant $500.
The 14th annual Rainbow $5,000 trout derby, set for June 25 at Diamond Lake in eastern Douglas County, not only will award cash prizes up to $1,000 for the heaviest rainbows caught during the event. It also sports five specially tagged fish that, if caught, will add cash payments to the lucky angler regardless of whether they place on the derby's big-board of winners.
The $500 extra cash will be spread among anglers who catch the tagged fish. If only one tagged fish is caught, then that person gets the whole shebang. If all five are caught, then they get $100 each.
The fish will be caught and tagged the week before the derby, and they likely will be trout around 12 inches long, says the Black Bird's Mike McMullen.
"It's a nice new wrinkle," McMullen says. "Tagging the smaller ones will give everybody an incentive, knowing even the smaller fish they catch could be money-winners."
The winning fish will sport an Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife "spaghetti tag," which is a long plastic tag with a number.
"I have no idea how many of them will be caught," McMullen says.
Since the derby moved from Howard Prairie Lake to Diamond Lake four years ago, it has become the region's most popular summer trout derby.
As many as 1,200 anglers are expected to be on hand, all trying to be that skillfully lucky person who pulls in the fattest Diamond denizen of the day.
Cosponsored by the Mail Tribune as well as the Diamond Lake Resort and Riverhawk, the Rainbow $5,000 is the trout derby where everyday anglers play like the pros — earning cash prizes for the largest trout caught by preregistered contestants.
The largest fish by weight will win its angler $1,000, with second place netting $750 and third place fetching $500. Prizes descend in value until $100 for 10th place.
The 11th- to 20th-place finishers each will win $75, while the 21st- to 30th-place finishers will earn $50 each.
Black Bird also offers merchandise giveaways throughout the day on the lake high in the Cascade Mountains.
The derby entrance fee remains at $15, and the weigh-in will end at 3 p.m. As with past derbies, each registered contestant can weigh in only one fish.
And chances are, that one fish each angler brings to the weigh-in should be a doozy.
The resort's Rick Rockholt believes some rainbows eclipsing 10 pounds are now finning under the ice, which should be long gone by the time the derby comes around.
Back this year are the familiar white derby T-shirts after last year's pink variety, offered in honor of two Black Bird faithful who died of cancer two weeks apart last year.
Wendy Lee Anderson, a former employee, died of breast cancer last year, and Scott Atkinson of Medford died from cancer last spring. Part of the proceeds from this year's derby will be donated to the St. Jude Children's Research Hospital in Tennessee.
Reach reporter Mark Freeman at 541-776-4470, or email at firstname.lastname@example.org.