June 3, 2013
Fishing fun hooks youngsters
Children try their luck at landing a fish during annual derby at Casterline Pond
HOMER — Emilee Wakula, 5, ran to the weighing scale holding a small sunfish in her hands.
“I want to win first place,” the kindergartner said. “I want to win a prize!”
Weighing in at a light 1 ounce and modest 6.25-inches, Emily’s older brother Ethan grabbed the flapping fish and brought it back to the water.
The annual Hooked on Fishing Derby on Saturday drew early risers from as young as 9 months old with fishing skills ranging from novice to experienced.
“We are hoping to attract over 75 youngsters today,” said David Hauck, vice president of Izaak Walton League of America, a co-sponsor of the event dedicated to conservation.
At 8:45 a.m., Casterline Pond was lined with about 11 youngsters, some patiently awaiting a bite as their lines remained unmoved on the calm water. Others were busy picking out worms from a small Styrofoam container, eager to place it on a hook.
Ethan Wakula, 7, watched his dad, Chad Wakula, cast a line into the water with fresh bait.
“I like catching trout,” the first-grader said. “I do not like putting on the worm though.”
Chad Wakula, who grew up in Homer, talked about fishing on the pond when he was a child.
“This pond used to be full of monstrous size trout,” he said.
Homer resident David Whitcombe, Ethan and Emilee Wakula’s grandfather, said this was his first time taking the grandchildren to the derby, but he grew up on the Saint Lawrence River, so he is well acquainted with fishing.
Whitcombe chuckled as his granddaughter ran over to share a prize she had won for simply registering to fish for the event.
“I am glad I got a fish,” Emilee Wakula said as she held up her Monster High coloring activity.
The derby is sponsored by the Cortland County Federation of Sportsmen, the city Youth Bureau, and Izaak Walton League. It is designed to encourage young people to learn about outdoor activities.
Sponors also offered door prizes — toys for outdoors and art activities — through choosing names at random.
Sixth-grader Matthew Kent casually walked to the tent where members of Izaak Walton League assisted in placing the sizable fish on the scale and then ruler.
The rainbow trout weighed in at 4 ounces and measured 10 3/8 inches in length.
“I have been coming here for about five years,” Kent said. “My dad usually takes me, but this year my grandpa took me.”
Kent has won first-place twice and second place once in his age bracket.
Trophies were up for grabs for the longest fish in three age categories: 7 and younger, 8 to 11, and 12 to 15. Since bass season was not officially open, only bass were off-limits.
There was also a Bob Atkins Memorial Youth Angler of the Year trophy that is given to a child who shows the most enthusiasm for fishing, even if she or he does not catch a fish.
Jeff Stewart, a member of Izaak Walton League, said the state Department of Environmental Conservation, along with the help of the federation, stocked the pond two weeks prior to the event with about 5,000 fish.
Species included brown and rainbow trout, brown bullhead, blue gill, yellow perch, pumpkin seed, and largemouth bass, Stewart added.
Within only 40 minutes of the derby’s start, 9-month old Isabella Hudson carried by her mom, held the pole while trout bit her line. The fish weighed a total of 14 ounces and measured 13 7/8-inches, likely representing the largest fish logged so far in the competition.
Last year’s derby drew 65 participants.
Federation member Greg Fuller said the event is important as it helps to promote getting children outdoors, specifically hunting and fishing in the county.
Fuller was busy turning hot dogs on a grill, stocking a cooler full of beverages and lining up chips at the snack tent. The food was donated by the federation and Fuller has been helping with the event for the past eight years.
“The number of children participating has tapered off during the last few years or so,” Fuller said. “Lower attendance may be due to kids having to keep up with all their school work and sports activities.”
Ryan Kline, 8, tried out a new pole while his dad Matt Kline watched from the shoulder along the pond’s bank.
The second-grader shyly said that he did not know what he liked best about fishing, but intently concentrated on where his bobber landed in the thick seaweed-strewn water.
“We came to fish for a little bit, but then we will be off to baseball,” Matt Kline added.
The annual derby has been running for over 50 years through the Izaak Walton League, Stewart said.
“We are hoping to get more kids interested in doing things in the outdoors,” he added.
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