Fun and fishing go hand in hand at derby

FAIRMONT – A cloudy day never dampens the spirit of a true fisherman, and that proved true for the children who turned out for the annual All-American Fishing Derby Saturday morning.

Along with the less than perfect weather, organizers were worried that holding the event in a new location may deter attendance.

“We’ve had as few as 75 and as many as 200,” said Dave Vogel of Bass Seekers, one of the co-chairs of the event. “Weather does play a big role, but in all my years here, there’s only been one year when it rained enough that we called it short and headed for the shelter house.”

There were seven children registered, but with parents and grandparents participating, more than 200 people were at the event.

“It’s surprising with the coolness and the different location how many we’ve seen so far,” added Char Kahler, who was working at the registration table with the Early Morning Kiwanis.

Other participating organizations include the Martin County Conservation Club, by loaning out rods and reels, and the Fairmont Junior Bass Seekers, who help to set up for the day.

The annual event was moved to Sylvania Park in Fairmont this year, instead of its regular location at Gomsrud Park, due to the ongoing construction.

“The access is not quite as good,” Vogel said. “But it’s neat because I’m seeing more moms and grandparents involved this year.”

The rules for the derby are simple: the event is open for ages 5-16, and each child must have a parent or guardian with them.

“It’s a great opportunity for family time, and also they are able to help,” Vogel said.

All fish are weighed and then released.

“There’s been a few times that the child really wanted to keep it,” Vogel said. “But we’ve had some who wanted to keep them as pets.”

During the first part of the day, the rain held off, and there was a hush over the park.

“It’s always really quiet at the beginning; they’re concentrating on fishing,” Vogel said. “Once they begin rumbling, that’s when we know to offer snacks and the prizes for the contests.”

A total of 35 fish were caught, with the largest catch being a 2.43 pound bass caught by 4-year-old Peyton Gresham.

“All the prizes we have to give are donated, and we usually have enough that every participant gets some sort of prize,” Vogel said.