WILLIAMSTOWN - Despite temperatures in the mid-40s on Saturday, several hundred children and their families cast their lines and hauled in a variety of trout during the annual Williamstown Fishing Derby.
Loren Cullum is owner and operator of Carwrex Collision Center on Central Avenue in Williamstown and has been organizing and sponsoring the annual fishing derby for 14 years with the help of other area businesses and organizations.
Cullum said the fishing derby is held every year in a large pond he installed on his business property after cleaning up the area 14 years ago. He decided to put some trout in it and hold the first fishing derby. The fish were stocked in the pond less than an hour before the derby began, which was not the correct way to do it since the fish are initially traumatized and very unlikely to go after the worms and other lures used by those fishing, he said.
Dan Frye, left, and his son, Sean, 7, of Williamstown, bait Sean's hook so he can fish for trout Saturday during the Williamstown Fishing Derby.
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Alayna Garst, 8, of Williamstown, watches her line hoping to catch a trout Saturday. It was her second year participating in the event.
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Newport resident Tom Berga, center, watches his grandsons, Avery Berga, right, and Dakota Miller, left, as they fish in Saturday's Williamstown Fishing Derby. All three family members like to hunt and fish.
"That year was a little bit of a flop. Now we put them in about a week before. That way they get all of the shell-shock out of them. Once they start tossing those poles in, this place just goes wild," he said of the children and their families casting lines and catching trout.
Cullum said 2,000 pounds of trout were stocked in the pond for the fishing derby, of various sizes. Those ranged from a large number weighing one to two pounds and a number of "brutes" weighing up to 10 pounds.
About 75 of the trout were tagged, which would earn the child who caught them prizes, including bicycles. The prize for the biggest fish was to have it mounted at no charge, if that is what the child wanted, he said.
Saturday's free derby was open to children up to 18 years old, with staggered starting times at the beginning. Younger age groups started at noon and the oldest group was able to start throwing their lines in at 12:30 p.m.
Newport resident Tom Berga brought his grandsons, Dakota Miller, 11, and Avery Berga, 10, to fish at Saturday's derby. They had participated in the derby before, although not recently.
"It's a lot of fun and the kids just have a ball," Tom Berga said, adding they also like to go to ballgames together and even fish in tournaments together.
Both Avery and Dakota said they like to fish and hunt and enjoyed the fishing derby.
"It's an opportunity for everybody to come out and have fun," Avery said, adding bass and trout are his favorite when it comes to fishing, "and catfish. Catfish is probably the fun one because you get to have a fight."
Dakota said he has been fishing since he was about 5 or 6 years old and "just catching the fish and throwing the line out" are his favorite parts of the activity.
Nick Garst, of Marietta, brought his 8-year-old daughter Alayna to fish during Saturday's derby. It was the second year the family participated in the event.
"It's been a good event so far," Garst said, adding Alayna caught several fish last year but hadn't yet caught anything early Saturday afternoon.
The fishing derby ran until 6 p.m. Saturday. Cullum said he didn't have any official tally of participation, but estimated several hundred children and their families lined the pond's banks throughout the chilly day Saturday.
The families could take home any trout they caught, and the derby also had an area set up to teach how to filet and cook the fish on a grill for immediate eating, he said.
Cullum said any proceeds from Saturday's event will go into next year's fishing derby.
"You can change a kid's life" by instilling an interest in the outdoors and fishing through a positive experience like the fishing derby, Cullum said.
"You'll change their life forever and they will be a fisherman forever," he said.