ROCKAWAY BOROUGH, NJ - Potbelly's Riverside Cafe's annual Trout Fishing Contest has the potential to be the "biggest and the best" of them all, predicts Potbelly's owner Rob Grow, who is in his 10th year of running the contest.
"We're stocking more fish, we have more prizes, more of the town's businessmen are involved, more of our customers are chipping in," explained Grow. "Now, if the fishermen will only catch more of our tagged fish, this year could very well be our best contest."
The contest starts April 8 at 8 a.m. - the opening day of trout season in New Jersey - and continues throughout the season or "until all the prizes are given out," Grow said.
The top prize this spring is a $300 Visa gift card donated by the Rockaway Borough Police Benevolent Association. The lucky angler who lands the tagged 8-pound rainbow -- also donated by the police -- will take home the big prize, a prize that has increased the past two years because nobody caught the big fish.
Potbelly's will once again stock a 5-pound tagged rainbow and the angler who nets this beauty will have it prepared by the Potbelly's chefs as the main course of a complete dinner for four.
Other prizes include: 25 "six-packs" of trout lures, five boxes of flies donated by the Hacklebarney Chapter of Trout Unlimited in Whippany and gift certificates donated by local merchants.
Grow will purchase 50 trout from the Musky Trout Hatcheries of Asbury, in Warren County, and put them in the Rockaway River between the falls behind the firehouse and the falls at Jackson Avenue the week leading up to opening day. To be eligible for prizes, all tagged fish caught must be returned live to the weigh-in station Grow will have set up in front of his restaurant.
Trout Unlimited donated money to purchase ten 3-pound trout and the Rockaway merchants, area outdoorsmen and several Potbelly's customers have donated funds to purchase the rest of the record-breaking total of trout, with most of the fish in the 2-pound range.
This is the first time Trout Unlimited has been on board for one of Potbelly's fishing contests. The club helped support Grow's river clean-ups held this past spring and last fall.
"Our club is a cold-water conservation group of environmentally conscious fly fishermen," says Richard Cotter, the club's environmental chairman. "We believe that if we take care of our rivers, the fish and fishing will take care of themselves.
"A clear interest and priority of our chapter is introducing young people to nature and conservation through fishing education programs," added Cotter. "It is why we like to donate funds, prizes and man-power to events such as Potbelly's contest, events where we can help teach young people to fish and learn about the natural world.
"Some of our young chapter members have been recognized as future environmental leaders by our state and national Trout Unlimited organizations and our intention is to continue to build on these efforts."
Trout Unlimited will have a table set outside Potbelly's for those who want more information on the club and its activities or have questions on how to join the chapter.
For more information on the contest, contact Grow at 201-602-6835.