Fundraiser is goodbye to Crosseyed Cricket fishin' hole

Volunteer Anita Russell helps stock the pond at the Crosseyed Cricket Campground in Lenoir City. Volunteers are preparing the pond for the Trout Fishing Rodeo June 19 to benefit the Loudon County Habitat for Humanity.

Pondís final event will benefit Loudon Habitat for Humanity

By Mike Blackerby   Knoxville News Sentinel

LENOIR CITY - It's last call at one of East Tennessee's most famous fishin' holes.

The fourth - and final - Trout Fishing Rodeo, which benefits Loudon County Habitat for Humanity, will be 8 a.m.-5 p.m. Saturday at the Crosseyed Cricket.

"We expect 700 to 800 people," said Gary Drinnen, resource development manager for Loudon County Habitat for Humanity.

"This will be the last opportunity for folks to fish here. People from all over East Tennessee have fond memories of the Crosseyed Cricket.

"The neat thing about this fundraiser is families can come out and enjoy fishing and help a very deserving family move into a house they can afford. Our goal is to raise enough money to sponsor a house, which is $20,000 to $25,000."

Jim Lockwood and his wife, Jean, bought the 60-acre tract of farm land in 1968 and turned it into a peaceful country resort with the memorable moniker and trademark Charlie Cricket mascot.

The 71-year-old Lockwood said he'll continue to operate the campground at the Crosseyed Cricket, but Saturday's fundraiser will be the last opportunity for folks to fish the waters of the half-acre pond that has provided more than 40 years of memories for people throughout the region.

The Crosseyed Cricket's popular restaurant closed several years ago. The rainbow trout hatchery, which has provided the more than 1 million fish that have been caught over the years at the Crosseyed Cricket, will be shut down soon.

"We've had a great time out here for over 40-something years, but closing came down to, 'I can't work 80 hours a week any more,' " said Lockwood.

A longtime supporter of Habitat for Humanity, Lockwood said it's only fitting that proceeds from Saturday's fishing finale benefits the organization.

"Habitat is a great organization," he said. "People are picking themselves up by their boot strings. It's not a gift - they work for their houses."

No fishing license is needed for Saturday's rodeo. Poles and bait (no minnows) will be provided, or people can bring their own fishing rods.

The trout will be priced at $4 per pound, with proceeds going to Loudon County Habitat for Humanity. Crosseyed Cricket personnel will be on hand to clean the fish and pack them in ice.

There will be no shortage of fish.

Lockwood and volunteer helpers spent Monday morning transporting rainbow trout from the hatchery to the pond.

"We put about eight loads of fish in," said Lockwood. "That's about 3,200 to 3,500 pounds of fish. Most will run a little better than 1 pound. A handful of them will run 4 to 5 pounds."

Both Drinnen and Lockwood said Saturday's event will be bittersweet.

"The dedication they (the Lockwoods) have shown to help provide safe, affordable housing to people in Loudon County has been incredible," Drinnen said.

"They've been indispensable to the organization over the years."

While Lockwood will continue to operate the campground and oversee the grounds, he admitted it will be tough when that final fish is reeled in Saturday.

"It's hard - we've put our life into it," he said. "It has been a great place for everybody. It's just that joy of seeing people 5 to 85 catching fish.

"The thing I will miss most is making people happy. We're just leaving the future up to the Lord."