They gathered Friday night at the Crystal River Yacht Club to talk trout. It was the captain's meeting of the 10th annual Rotary Club Trout Tournament and 200 or so of the area's finest anglers, some attracted by tradition, others by a $4,000 first prize, were in attendance.
Some drank beer, some had roast beef instead of turkey, while others opted for the silent auction and the chance to steal a deal on a load of Love's Lures. Anglers of all makes, from burly, bearded salts in camouflage hats to tall blondes in red dinner dresses paid their $65 entry fee ($10 extra for the biggest redfish contest) and sat in a crowded room listening to tournament chairman Roger Horn read the rules.
We learned the tournament was a "Guts Rodeo," meaning that come, hell, high water, or even an appearance by Elvis, there would be fishing. Only the U.S. Coast Guard had the authority to cancel this tournament.
Saturday was a trout day.
One of those days when a thick blanket of clouds shrouded the sun and the wind billowed just enough to put a slight ripple on the water. Optimum conditions.
While landlubbers slept, more than 200 anglers were plying local waters in search of the $4,000 trout.
Some were headed onto the gulf, where decent numbers of fish up to 3 pounds had been striking baits in 8 to 10 feet of water earlier in the week.
Others were going to try working one of the many creek mouths that dot the map from the Withlacochee south to Chassahowitzka. By 4 p.m., all boats were to be back at the Crystal River Country Club to weigh in their catch.
There are no winners yet, but today, at 4 p.m., somebody will be a little better off, financially. The public is invited to attend the weigh-in at the country club. A fish fry will follow.