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Go muskie fishing for a good cause

CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- Some of West Virginia's most high-profile muskellunge anglers plan to honor slain state Trooper Eric Workman by holding a fishing tournament named for him.

The first annual Eric Workman Memorial Fishing Tournament will be held June 1 on waters throughout the state. Participants will fish for muskies, Workman's favorite species, and proceeds from entry fees will help fund efforts to make muskie fishing better for all West Virginians.

The 26-year-old trooper, an avid and well-liked hunter and angler, was shot last Aug. 31 and died three days later. "Eric laid down his life in the line of duty. We wanted to do something to honor him," said Scott Smith, one of the tournament's organizers.

Several of Workman's buddies held a deer hunt in his honor last December. The muskie-fishing community decided to hold a fundraising tournament in his name as well.

"We've been planning this for quite some time," Smith said.

Donations came pouring in to the Workman family soon after the shooting that led to Eric's death. His father, George Workman, used it to establish a memorial fund in his son's name, and has since used some of the money to benefit muskie fishing.

Earlier this year, the elder Workman had 26 tons of gravel delivered to shore up an unofficial Elk River boat ramp that had fallen into serious disrepair. The ramp, located at the mouth of Sugar Creek near Gassaway, is a favorite access site for muskie anglers.

Smith said tournament proceeds would be used for similar infrastructure projects, and might also be used to purchase food for muskies being reared at the state's Palestine and Apple Grove fish hatcheries.

"Judging from the preliminary interest, this event has the potential to raise a decent amount of money," he added. "It's getting a lot of community support, especially around the Clay area where Eric grew up. A lot of businesses want to help. As for the tournament itself, we're expecting 100 to 200 participants."

With that many anglers planning to fish, organizers were forced to change the tournament's format from a single-stream competition to a statewide one.

"We had planned to hold it on the Elk River, because that was Eric's favorite place to muskie fish," Smith said. "But we pretty quickly realized we couldn't put that many people on a single body of water. So we expanded the tournament to include all West Virginia muskie waters."

The tournament will be held under "golden rule" regulations: Longest fish wins. After being measured, all muskies must be released. Everyone who takes part in the tournament will meet at 6 p.m. at the Big Otter Fire Department for a catered barbecue dinner.

"The entry fee for the tournament is $25, and for that you get a meal, a commemorative T-shirt and probably a door prize," Smith said. "People who don't want to fish, but would like to come and fellowship with Eric's friends, can pay $5 for the dinner and $10 for a T-shirt."

So far, Smith added, the list of door prizes includes a rafting trip, a guided fishing trip "and a lot of lures and [fishing] equipment. Also, vendors who wish to exhibit at the firehouse on tournament day can do so free of charge. All they have to do is show up and set up."

The tournament's top three finishers will receive plaques, but no cash prizes will be awarded.

"We're also having a really nice traveling trophy made," Smith said. "It will have a bronze muskie sculpture on top of a walnut base, and there will be room for the names of 24 years' worth of winners to be engraved on it. Obviously, we're planning for this tournament to become an annual event for quite a while."

Reach John McCoy at johnmccoy@wvgazette.com or 304-348-1231.


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