The Midlothian Parks and Recreation department is prepared for the 9th annual Kids’ Fishing Derby.
The Derby, planned April 6 at the Midlothian Community Park pond, offers kids a chance to get outside and learn to fish.
“It’s basically to provide outdoor recreation,” said Gina Moore, Midlothian special events coordinator. “It introduces a love of fishing.”
Participants will be divided into three age groups for the competition. The minnow group will have 4-6-year-olds, 7-9-year-olds will be placed in the perch group and 10-12-year-olds will be in the bass group. Kids are required to bring their own bait and fishing tools.
Registration to participate is currently open but closes at 5 p.m. April 5, Moore said. Openings are closing fast and the event fills up every year. The rainout date is scheduled for April 20.
“We have a fantastic turn out every year,” Moore said.
Parents can register their kids online through the city’s website.
Each age group has 50 openings. Currently, the minnow group has 49 filled, the perch group has 40 filled and the bass group has 35 filled, Moore noted.
“We only have a few spots left,” she said.
The goal is to, obviously, reel in the biggest fish. There will be a first, second and third place winner in each division, a biggest fish overall and a derby champion, Moore added.
The fish are caught by the anglers, weighed and tossed back into the pond. Moore said about 20 to 25 fish are caught every year.
“We ask that the angler themselves do all the work,” Moore noted.
She added that it may not be possible for them to do it all alone though considering there are some younger contestants. Parents can help their younger children, and the Midlothian High School fishing team will also offer assistance, Moore said.
The Parks and Recreation department can’t host the event alone. It relies on volunteers to help with fishing and registering the anglers, Moore noted.
Gilbert Miller, Midlothian High School fishing team coach, said he is sending two students to help with the derby and noted the team has helped each of the past two years.
During the derby, the team members assist kids participating when they need help and weigh in the fish.
He said he wishes he could send more, but the majority of his team are competing at the regional tournament on the same day.
“I feel bad I couldn’t send more,” he said.
The derby offers a chance for his students to interact with younger kids and take on a mentorship type role with them. Plus, it breaks them out of their comfort zones.
“A lot of them are really shy,” said Miler about his high school team. “Most of them eat, sleep, fish.”
The Midlothian High School fishing team isn't the only volunteers the parks department relies on to make the derby happen.
The local chapter of Legacy DeMolay helps with registration and making sure participants get their goodie bags and t-shirts, chapter advisor Felest Ingersoll said.
Legacy DeMolay is an international organization geared toward youth leadership specifically with young men.
“Our guys are the first to step up and say they’ll help,” Ingersoll said.
This year the chapter will have six to eight people helping with registration and distributing t-shirts, she noted.
“It gets them to care about the community and not just themselves,” Ingersoll said. “These kids think outside themselves.”
The chapter has volunteered to help with the derby for the past five or six years, she said. This year, she hopes is a warm one.
“We’re looking forward to it,” Moore said. “We hope the fish are biting.”
Samantha Douty, @SamanthaDouty