Jerry Gaines understands the value of closed fishing seasons.
Lately, he’s appreciated them.
The longtime angler had caught plenty of fish over the years, but never an award-winning speckled trout. The trout season is closed because of cold stun suffered by thousands of fish over the harsh winter. So release awards are all anglers can earn from the Virginia Saltwater Fishing Tournament.
Speckled trout must be 24 inches long to qualify.
On a recent trip to the Elizabeth River with friend Louis Glaser, Gaines finally earned one of the tournament’s coveted citation plaques after catching and releasing a 24-incher.
“I’ve caught a lot of trout that I knew were probably citations,” said Gaines, a 64-year-old former Chesapeake high school teacher and principal who lives in Portsmouth. “I never really thought about measuring them or turning them in.
“But this one came about because of the (closure).”
Gaines already had an award-winning white marlin and several freshwater awards from the game department’s angler recognition program.
But he never realized how sought-after a trophy speckled trout was.
“I sat in on the (Virginia Marine Resources commission) meeting for the moratorium,” Gaines said of a meeting held early this year to discuss closing the season until this summer. “Hearing how everybody talked about them I realized then what a coveted thing a trout citation was.”
Gaines started fishing the Suffolk lakes for bass, crappie and bream after graduating from college.
“Then the next thing, you’re saltwater fishing, then offshore,” he said. “But as I’ve grown older, I’m not much for offshore anymore.”
Gaines said he owns a small jon boat he uses on the lakes and local river systems. He enjoys trips with Glaser to the Chesapeake Bay, where the two fish for flounder.
“I fish when I have time,” said Gaines, who also is a motivational speaker. “I fish about three times a week during the season.”
Even if he can’t keep any fish because they’re out of season.
Lee Tolliver, 757-222-5844, firstname.lastname@example.org