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Annual Black Bird trout derby is Saturday

Seventeen years of helping run the Black Bird Shopping Center's Rainbow $5,000 trout-fishing derby have taught Toni Young an important lesson.

She knows that no matter how many people sign up in the 51 weeks since the previous year's event at Diamond Lake, their numbers will be dwarfed by those who line up to beat tonight's deadline for registering in Southern Oregon's richest trout-fishing event.

"This week has been crazy, and it will be even worse tonight," says Young, a long-time Black Bird employee. "All the procrastinators are coming in. And just like every year, we'll end up with around 1,000 people."

That's what happens when derby organizers not only dangle the prospect of $5,000 in cash prizes, but also return this year with the Lithia Lunker — a tagged fish sponsored by Lithia Body and Paint that will fetch its catcher $1,000.

And this year's favorable weather forecasts shouldn't hurt, either.

Participants can register at Black Bird, 1810 W. Main St., in Medford until the store closes at 8 p.m. Those planning to camp Friday night at Diamond Lake can register until 10 p.m. at Diamond Lake Resort, which is the official hub of the derby.

The Rainbow $5,000 is a multi-tiered contest.

In addition to the Lithia Lunker, Black Bird sponsors five tagged fish that will fetch $500 each if caught.

Last year, the Lithia Lunker and four of the tagged fish went uncaught during derby day. A Central Point man caught one of the $500 fish.

The rest of the derby runs the same as it has since its inception.

The largest fish by weight caught by a pre-registered angler will earn $1,000, with second place netting $750 and third place fetching $500. Prizes descend in value, with the 10th place fish netting $100. The 11th- to 20th-place finishers each winning $75, and the 21st- to 30th-place finishers earning $50 each.

The derby entrance fee is $16, with $1 donated to a local nonprofit agency each year. This year's charity is the Children's Advocacy Center, which helps victims of child abuse, Young says.

The weigh-in will begin at noon and end at 3 p.m. Anglers must be in line by 3 p.m. to qualify for the weigh-in regardless of how long the last-minute line is.

As in past derbies, each registered contestant can weigh in only one fish.

Anglers should keep their eyes on the backs of the rainbows they net. The tagged fish will be sporting "floy tags," which are sometimes referred to as "spaghetti tags" because of their noodle-like appearance.

The tags are about 3 inches long and each bears a secret code denoting it as a derby-winning fish.

Those who catch a floy-tagged fish will need to take it to the resort to see what it's worth, Young says.

"It's a secret until they open the envelope," she says.

For more details, call Black Bird at 541-779-5431 or Diamond Lake Resort at 1-800-733-7593.

Reach reporter Mark Freeman at 541-776-4470 or mfreeman@mailtribune.com. Follow him at www.twitter.com/MTwriterFreeman.