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Wheelin#039; Sportsmen event rolls on at Lake Vesuvius

PEDRO - Hundreds of people will cast their lines into Lake Vesuvius Friday in search of the big one - and that is no fish story.

Lake Vesuvius will be stocked with 1,000 rainbow trout Friday just in time for the second annual Wheelin' Sportsmen Fishing Day, a one-day fishing event for the disabled. Anglers can hit the water from 10 a.m. until 2 p.m. Friday.

Last year's event was a huge success as it allowed those restricted by age or disabilities to fish from the boardwalk spanning the lake from the boat dock to the dam.

And they pulled the trout out fast and furiously.

But if you ask Gloria Chrismer, district ranger for the Wayne National Forest's Ironton district, the event is about far more than snagging a few fish.

"To see the smiles on their faces when they catch those trout is absolutely priceless," she said. "There is no doubt about it.

"I have been telling people with the district that whatever they put into these activities that they will get 10 times more out of it. It is just such a good feeling to get out there and help these folks. It makes their day."

This event is the result of a partnership with the South Hills Chapter of the National Wild Turkey Federation, Ohio Department of Natural Resources Wildlife Division, Ohio University Southern's Nature Center, Lawrence County Bass Club and the Wayne National Forest.

The Wheelin' Sportsmen is an outreach program established by the 500,000-strong National Wild Turkey Federation intended to provide physically challenged individuals opportunities to participate in outdoor activities such as fishing, hunting, bird watching and others.

The South Hills Longbeard Chapter of the National Wild Turkey Federation is scheduled to provide lunch for the participants and the Nature Center will furnish drinks.

Volunteers who will assist the disabled anglers.

Fishing poles and bait will be provided for those with disabilities.

The trout will be in the 10- to 13-inch category and are scheduled for release into the lake at 11 a.m. the day of the event.

"There are a lot of people who would like to fish, but haven't been able to do so for many years because age or disabilities have kept then from getting out and enjoying the lake," Robert Burcham, vice president of the South Hills Chapter, said in a written release. "All of that has changed now since the boardwalk has been built."

Chrismer emphasized that none of this would be possible without the cooperation of many.

"This partnership is evidence of what folks working together for a common cause can accomplish," she said. "None of us alone could have produced an event of such quality but together we have successfully served and will be able to serve a large group of folks with special abilities.

I hope that this will continue to be an annual event at Lake Vesuvius."

Free Ohio fishing licenses are available for Ohio residents with certain levels of disability. Applications for these licenses are available at the Ironton District Ranger Office and will be available at Friday's event. Participants must follow all Ohio Department of Natural Resources (ODNR) rules and regulations for fishing. For more fishing or licensing information call ODNR Division of Wildlife Information Line at 1-800-WILDLIFE (1-800-945-3543).

Anyone interested in participating in the event can contact Eddie Park or Tamara James at the Ironton Ranger District at (740) 534-6500 for more information.

"I was amazed last year," Chrismer said. "We are expecting this year to be bigger and better."