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Andrew Lowe, a past participant in the Big Coal River Trout Rodeo Tournament in Whitesville boasts a stocked trout weighing in at over four pounds. The event returns to the area on April 9 at 6 a.m. through April 11 at 4 p.m.

WHITESVILLE — After taking a pandemic-induced hiatus last year, the Big Coal River Trout Rodeo Tournament — hosted by the Upper Big Branch Mining Memorial Group — will once again bring anglers to the Coal Heritage Riverwalk Park in Whitesville.

The tournament, which sees hundreds of trout stock the Big Coal River in Whitesville, was canceled in 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic but will revive starting on April 9 at 6 a.m. through April 11 at 4 p.m.

This is the fifth year for the tournament, sponsored by Whitesville State Bank.

Pre-registration is available through the group’s Facebook page, but organizers will accept in-person payment during the event.

Organizer Sheila Combs spoke about the joy of seeing the event revived in 2021.

“We’re excited and the community is excited,” Combs said. “The trout rodeo was created to promote the Big Coal River and recreational tourism in our area.”

Active in the community, the Big Branch Mining Memorial Group has championed multiple projects including the UBB Mine Memorial and Coal Heritage RiverWalk Park.

“This year when we decided to do it, we decided to make a shorter event,” she said.

The organizer explained the process for the rodeo that leads to prizes for winners.

“Essentially, we stock the river with trout and we get the permit from the (West Virginia) Department of Natural Resources to host the event. We get our trout from Rainbowhead Farms in Wallace, West Virginia. They deliver the trout and we have local volunteers who help get them into the river.”

Organizers will stock five to six key “fishing holes” from upper Whitesville to lower Whitesville.

“If you catch a fish with a tag, bring in the tag on Sunday and we’ll draw for some prizes.”

The registration fee includes a T-shirt, and also automatically registers participants for eligibility to win prizes.

“It’s a public area and we aren’t going to tell people that can’t fish without paying the fee and registering, but it really helps keep us going with the cost involved in putting on an event like this and we certainly appreciate it.”

She added, “We haven’t made money doing this, but we feel like we have a bigger goal and that is why we do it.”

About 80 registrants participated in 2019, but organizers hope for good weather and a better turnout.

“There was excitement when we last held the rodeo because the trout were so big,” Combs said. “We had one fish that weighed in at over 4 pounds and we had four or five big ones like that. We have some of those bigger fish coming this year, too.”

Combs said that future plans involve bringing in vendors and products to create a street fair atmosphere.

“This year we decided not to encourage a gathering of people so that is something we’ll pursue in the future.”

For more information, including registration information, visit The Coal Heritage Riverwalk on Facebook.

Reporter Phil Perry can be reached at or at 304-307-2401.

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