The annual Vietnam Veterans of America (VVA) Chapter 480 Catfish Derby brought over 500 contestants to Hickories Park this past weekend to compete for prizes and cash. This year marked a turning point for the popular tournament as it was dedicated to VVA 480 life member and tournament co-founder Joe Kinney.

"I know no man who didn't like him," Chuck Kinney said of his brother Joe. Chuck made the trip from Dayton, Tenn., to be at the dedication ceremony. "Joe was an avid fisherman and supporters of vets," Chuck remembered.

"Joe would knock you on your [expletive] if you said anything bad about anyone," Gary Stilson remembered, "he was an inspiration to any veteran or anyone who loves their country. He was very talented, intellectual and loving."

"Gary was his best friend," Chuck said of his brother. Chuck reminisced about his departed brother, recalling that Joe Kinney loved to pan for gold almost as much as he liked to fish. Joe Kinney was also a Civil War re-enactor, frequently playing the part of a Union general. He also penned a book, which Chuck said his brother had never finished, though those who have read it all said it was very good.

"We do this every year to give money to various charities," VVA 480 member Bill Chandler said. Veterans will be helped with the proceeds raised from the Catfish Derby, as will Catholic Charities of Tioga County, Tioga County Rural Ministry and the Oxford House. Like so many other events, last year the Catfish Derby was not held because of the flood. While not a record number of participants, the 500 anglers who came to Owego to fish the Susquehanna was an impressive showing.

VVA 480 President Ron Traue thanked everyone for participating in the derby this year, and gave special thanks to the many sponsors who made the Catfish Derby possible. "It came out great," Traue said. It certainly did for those who caught the biggest catfish this year.

Over $4,000 was awarded to participants by the vets. The Grand Prize of $2,500 for a nearly 13 pound catfish went to James Welliver. The winning fish hit on chicken liver bait and was caught just upstream of Nichols, Welliver said. Like many others, Welliver plans on coming back next year for the VVA 480 Joseph Kinney Memorial Catfish Derby.