Families cast in their lines for fishing derby

WHIPPLE – Hundreds of youngsters and their families lined the banks of the small lake at the Washington County Fish and Game Club grounds on Duck Creek Road near Whipple for the club’s annual youth fishing derby Sunday afternoon.

“There were some people already here at 6 a.m., trying to get a good spot,” said Sid Antill, trustee with the fish and game club.

He said the fishing derby, open to the public, usually draws between 200-300 kids, ages 1-17, who compete to catch the largest striped bass, crappie, largemouth bass, bluegill or catfish.

First, second and third place prizes, including trophies and fishing equipment, are awarded in three age group categories – 1-6 years; 7-12 years; and 13-17 years.

“But everybody goes home with something,” Antill said. “It’s just great fun and gets the kids outdoors.”

Tom Bartlett, of Marietta, brought his 2-year-old daughter Kya and other family members to Sunday’s event, noting his schedule doesn’t allow as much family time as he would wish.

“I think it’s is great,” he said. “If it wasn’t for this derby, my daughter might not learn how to fish.”

Bartlett’s niece, 7-year-old Megan Hedrick, said she enjoys the fishing.

“I like fishing, but I do not like the worms,” she said, adding that baiting the hook is tasked to her grandfather, John Bartlett.

“I’ll bait the hooks, but when they get a bite I’m more excited than they are,” John said of his grandchildren.

Raegan Sergent, 5, of Marietta, said she has no problem handling fishing worms.

“I put them on the hook, but sometimes I keep them for pets,” she said.

Each fish caught was taken to a booth where it was measured and the size recorded before the children either put them on a stringer or released the fish back into the lake.

Tim Parrett is district manager for the Ohio Department of Natural Resources Division of Wildlife that provides grant funding to help support fishing derbies and other outdoor events by regional fish and game clubs.

“We would not have the staff to do this if not for our partnership with the fish and game clubs,” he said. “And the division of wildlife funds these events strictly through fishing and hunting license and permit fees.”

The annual fishing derbies at the Washington County Fish and Game Club have been held since 1954.

“The first one was held at the old swimming pool at the Washington County Fairgrounds in Marietta,” Antill said.

Longtime club member Dan Porter, 90, recalled that up to 600 kids would participate in the earlier fishing derbies at the Merryhill pool.

“They’d bring in a truckload of catfish and dump them in the swimming pool,” he said. “Then they would drain the pool to get any fish out that were left after the fishing derby.”

Porter said the leftover live fish would be collected from the pool and released into area streams and rivers.

Antill said the club will also be sponsoring a fall family fishing day in September of this year, a small wild game hunt in October, and the annual youth deer hunt and orientation in November.

“Most of the funding for these events, except that used to purchase trophies and prizes, is provided through grants from the ODNR Division of Wildlife,” he said. “And we apply for the grants every year.”