Despite the COVID-19 pandemic that limited or forced many clubs in Tellico Village to shut down in 2020, the Tellico Village Fishing Club remained active and is looking forward to bouncing back to full strength this year.
The club typically holds numerous tournaments and outings during the year, but the majority of them were canceled for health and safety measures.
“Well, last year, we skipped a couple of tournaments there in April and May because we didn’t know a whole lot, and we had our March tournament but it got canceled with COVID,” David Berger, club president, said. “We had six tournaments in March, June, July, August, September and October. We awarded top angler by inches with five fish, and then you measure your fish for each tournament. During those same months, we had our outings where we go to different lakes or fish a specific spot on Tellico (Lake).”
The club still managed to award annual top anglers, which included Mike Fejes, who won Top Angler of the Year; Dick Mavis, who placed second; and Ken Christ, who was third. Tom Archakis won Big Largemouth of the Year, while Dave Johnson landed Big Smallmouth of the Year.
The pandemic led to a decline in membership by 20%.
“Like for many other organizations, it’s been like no other year that we’ve ever seen, and hopefully, we’ll never see again,” Jim Goyert, club secretary, said. “Unfortunately, we had to discontinue all of our in-person meetings and social events because of distancing and what have you, and so the only things we were able to do were our outside activities. That was our fishing tournaments and outings that we do, but even with that we had to be extremely careful to distance, use masks, hand sanitizing and those kinds of things. We averaged about 70 members per meeting, and we were unable to have any of that.”
However, some members viewed the pandemic as a hidden blessing in that they were able to hit the water more than usual.
“The fishing has been, overall, pretty good because some good, quality fish have been caught and have had good numbers,” Goyert said. “Traditionally in the summer with the hot, hazy and humid months, fishing slows down. By and large, it was pretty positive. We had a fair number of our guys out on the lake that will submit fishing reports, and then we send them out through our email distribution network as a way of keeping interest in the club as far as what’s going on fishing condition-wise.”
The club hopes to resume monthly meetings at the Yacht Club starting later this month and begin the process of rebuilding.
“The really big thing is we’ve tried to get the word out, but it’s just not the same as having a meeting where you can come out and meet some of the people, meet the management and we always have a good speaker come in and talk about fishing,” Berger said. “That’s really hurt not having our monthly meetings, and there’s been a lot of people move into Tellico Village since February.”
Goyert believes a combination of vaccinations and social-distancing guidelines could help expedite the process.
“We hope to be able to get back to some semblance of a normal again,” he said. “Our target would be maybe mid-year if the vaccinations and the vaccine program work like it’s supposed to. Another objective would be for us to at least be able to continue our tournaments and outings throughout the year.”