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Old 07-01-2005, 09:45 AM
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Default True Sportsmanship / A good father.

same thing happens when i take my wife fishing.

"you are snagged" , as the record size fish breaks the surface... Click the image to open in full size.

Boy wins derby with man-sized trout catch
Outdoors Column
Mail Tribune

Armed with the lucky penny he found in the dirt and his grandfather’s favorite lure, 6-year-old Dawson Fraley trolled the depths of Howard Prairie Lake on Saturday expecting success.

When his rod doubled over the side of his dad’s boat, however, Dawson thought he was about to lose this lure.

"I saw it tip over like it hooked the bottom," Dawson says. "I thought the rod was going to snap and I would lose my special lure."

Less than four minutes later, the boy would hold more than just a run-of-the-mill trout with his grandfather’s lure imbedded in its mouth.

This was an 8-pound, 12-ounce trout, the likes of which haven’t been seen at the rainbow-rich Howard Prairie in almost 30 years.

Dawson’s 28-inch trout earned the Montague, Calif., boy the unofficial title of Howard Prairie’s trout catcher of the century and the fan’s favorite among the 530 entrants in the Rainbow $5,000 trout derby at the lake east of Ashland.

"I just told him to keep his pole up and don’t stop reeling," says Bob Fraley, Dawson’s father and driver of the boat. "There were so many things that could have gone wrong, but everything went right and he did it all by himself.

"It was awesome. Just awesome."

Awesome Dawson and Fraley, 34, were both entered in the derby in which everyday anglers play like the pros by earning cash prizes for the largest trout caught in various categories.

Though his trout weighed 5 pounds more than those earning $500 in the adult categories, Dawson officially won just a rod and reel as promised in the derby’s under-14 category.

But the Black Bird Shopping Center, the main sponsor and organizer of the derby, and the Howard Prairie Resort each kicked in $100 apiece for Dawson. He also received the "Trout of the Century" certificate from the resort as well as the handshakes and backslaps from dozens of derby entrants who eschewed envy for praise.

"It was so nice to see so many people be so nice to a little boy," Fraley says.

But just as nice to many of the derby participants is the grace Fraley showed his son.

Had Fraley grabbed the rod from Dawson and fought the fish to the net, the trout legally would be his to keep, and he would have claimed the $500 prize.

It’s been done before. At least twice. Once, a young kid bragged to the derby’s weigh-in crowd how he hooked his dad’s winning trout for him as his dad claimed his winner’s check.

"I don’t know how many people came up to him and said how proud they were that he didn’t take that fish away from his son," says Marie Wharton, one of Black Bird’s derby organizers. "That was cool. Really cool."

Fraley says he never touched his son’s rod and never thought of it. When you’re a Fraley and you hook a fish, he says, it’s yours to catch or yours to lose.

"Five hundred dollars is a lot of money, but in this circumstance, it’s not," Fraley says. "That would have been a terrible thing to do to a kid.

"It’s really important to me that people know my son caught that fish."

Catching fish is the Fraley family bailiwick.

Three generations of Fraley men regularly pound the ponds and lakes of Northern California and Southern Oregon for trout. Dawson’s first trout came at age 2. By age 3½ , he was regularly casting his own rod and hooking his own fish.

But that wasn’t the case Saturday. In more than four hours of trolling during the derby, Bob Fraley had hooked only a little smallmouth bass between them.

Dawson switched lures every few minutes, eventually settling on a broken-back Rapala "Fire Tiger" lure given to him by his grandfather.

"You know how kids are," Fraley says. "Every four minutes he was changing his lure."

While trolling back to the resort to pick up Dawson’s 3-year-old brother, Jaeden, Dawson’s 5-foot rod doubled over near the sailboat moorings.

"It looked exactly like it was hooked on the bottom," Fraley says. "I kicked the motor into neutral and told him to open his bail."

The boat slowed, but the line didn’t.

"I yelled to him to shut his bail. ‘You got a fish!’" Fraley says.

The big trout lumbered under water, eventually swirling on the surface to Fraley’s amazement.

But the trout never made the big runs, nor did it generate the head shakes to threaten Dawson’s 8-pound line.

It fought like a fish that wanted to die, coming to the boat faster than some 16-inchers in the lake.

"He looked like a salmon," Dawson says. "I thought he was going to fight, but he didn’t."

Right then, Dawson knew he would be a derby winner. But he didn’t know he was rewriting Howard Prairie history.

It was the heaviest trout seen there since a 14-pounder was caught in 1977.

"That’s a bruiser, a real old sucker," says Chris Johnston from the resort’s marina. "It’s really quite an amazing story."

At the derby weigh-in, however, the story about a dad who didn’t steal his 6-year-old son’s fish resonated among the Howard Prairie faithful as much as the size of the fish.

"He’s got his 15 minutes of fame pretty early," Fraley says. "Like one woman told him: ‘Son, it’s all downhill from here.’"
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