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Fishing Derby draws record number of participants

By Toni Milbourne - For the Chronicle | Jun 11, 2021

Brayten Smith, 6, of Hedgesville, concentrates on reeling in a fish at Saturday’s Fishing Derby at the Izaak Walton League. Toni Milbourne

LEETOWN — Jefferson County Parks and Recreation held their annual Youth Fishing Derby on Saturday at the Izaak Walton League in Leetown.

The event, which has been a favorite of youth for more than 20 years, is the first at-capacity event the park system has hosted since the COVIC-19 Pandemic reached Jefferson County last March.

“It is very exciting to have full, 100 percent capacity, without regulations,” said David Kling, assistant director, adding there were 160 children pre-registered for the derby.

“This is one of our longest-standing events,” Kling said, praising the great partnership for the event between the Izaak Walton League and the parks department.

Harry Jacobs, chairman of the pond committee for the league, explained the event began years ago with Jim Coulter, a park employee.

“Jim would set up and measure the fish,” Jacobs said, mentioning that Coulter, who was not able to attend this year, was certainly missed.

According to Jacobs, with the families who attended the derby, the Izaak Walton League deals with conservation and with outdoor recreation, among other things. The Jefferson County-based league has been in existence since 1947, he added.

“Over time, a lot of fish have come and gone,” Jacobs said.

The record breaking crowd of children attending Saturday’s event caught a wide variety of fish from the stocked pond, including rainbow trout, bass, bluegill, yellow perch, crappy and catfish.

Children who participated were in the running for a number of prizes, all of which were donated by Walmart, which sponsored the event, along with Jefferson Security Bank.

Categories for prizes included two age divisions — ages zero-to-seven and ages eight-and-up — and three categories: largest catches, smallest catches and most fish caught.

In the zero-to-seven age group, Grayson Stears, four, caught the largest fish at 21.5” while Sadie Dunn, four, and Ayden Elias, four-and-a-half, came in a close second and third, with 20.5″ each. Liam Jenkins, nine, caught the largest in his age group, with a 20.5” fish, with Jaxson Bivens, nine, coming in a very close second, with 20.25,” and JD Lafon at third, with 18.25″.

Smallest catches for those zero-to-seven were awarded to Annie Dunn for her 6.25” fish, Owen Burdette at 6.5″ and Chanea Boulffentis also at 6.5” for second and third, respectively. Liam Kessell took the smallest fish honors in the eight-and-up age group, with his 2″ catch, while Hayden Jenkins reeled in a 5.25” fish and Henry McIntosh finished out the top three with his 6.5″ catch.

The most fish in the zero-to-seven age group were caught Silvia Friend, who nabbed nine out of the pond, while Olivia Forsythe and Madison Burdette tied in the eight-and-up age group, with seven fish each.

All winners were able to select a prize, and many additional children took home door prize gifts from the event’s ticket drawing.

“I know we had at least 200 fish caught,” said park staffer Becki Zaglifa, mentioning the numbers were likely higher, as some fishers simply did catch-and-release, without bringing their fish to be measured.

“It was great to see so many families enjoying the event,” Kling said.

On Friday evening, a movie night, featuring Tom and Jerry on the big screen will also take place at The Amp, at no cost to attendees. For more information on JCPRC events, visit www.jcprc.org.