Free Wheelin#8217;

Published 12:00 am Friday, April 4, 2008

A little chill and a threat of rain didn’t stop a couple hundred people from attending the Wheelin’ Sportsmen event at Lake Vesuvius on Thursday morning.

The event is now in its fifth year and is sponsored by the National Wild Turkey Federation. This year there were about 100 people fishing up and down the boardwalk as well as a bunch of park rangers, NWTF members and volunteers there to help.

As for the fish, there was a lot more than the normal 1,000. This year, the national park service brought in about 1,500 rainbow trout from a fishery in Latham.

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Robert Burcham, the president of the Ohio State Chapter of the NWTF said when the event was organized five years ago, it was only supposed to be a one-time event.

“When we first put the fish in originally, we weren’t planning on doing it again. But people just loved it so much,” he said. “The Division of Wildlife, Wayne National Forest and the turkey federation and the Ohio University Nature Center all became a part of it and it has just ballooned into this. It is just a wonderful time for everyone and I’m tickled to death to everyone comes out for this.”

For Steve Marchi, the acting district ranger for the Lake Vesuvius, this was his first big fishing event at the lake. But he was thrilled to see all the people on the boardwalk because he saw it through the construction phase.

“This is really nice to see, this is what it was built for,” he said. “This is the only facility like that the forest has so it’s pretty unique.”

He said he thought the cold reduced the number of people but it was still going well.

“Everything has gone off without a hitch, the rain could hold off a little bit,” Marchi said.

The rain didn’t hold off though. A light rain came but for the most part, everyone kept fishsing.

Dale Rumble came down from Athens. He said he doesn’t fish much but it seemed like a good time.

“It was the lure of trout,” he said. “And I know a lot of people in the Forest Service and they sort of suggested that if I didn’t show up, they would be mad at me.”

He added the last part wasn’t true.

He said that he didn’t think the rain would affect the fishing much.

“The fish don’t mind getting wet,” he said with a chuckle.

Ed Kratchen of Wheelersburg came over when he read on the Internet that Lake Vesuvius was being stocked up.

“I usually go to West Virginia to catch trout,” he said, adding that this is the first time he had been to Lake Vesuvius. “It’s a really nice event, although it could be a little nicer weather. And this is a really nice facility for the handicapped people to have access to fish.”

Troy Thomas, the regional director of the NWTF, said the Wheelin’ Sportsmen events are popular throughout the state with deer hunts, turkey hunts as well as fishing events.

He said one of the reasons the NWTF focuses on helping people with disabilities get involved in outdoor sports is to give them opportunities.

“We were missing the boat,” he said. “So we developed an outreach program to get these guys out and get them involved.”

The morning began with the dedication ceremonies for the new archery trail that has been in the works for two years.

The NWTF donated $34,000 to make the trail with 2-D targets, 3-D targets and spots that are handicap-accessible.

Buddy Fry, a 30-year member of the NWTF, said the trails are nearing completion and a certain type of stone and dust was put down that will harden after a good rain. He said they are getting donations for targets and have talked to a target manufacturer and they will be getting a good deal.

He said he hopes to have the trails open and ready for use sometime this summer.