The Bankhead National Forest held the twentieth annual “Kids Fishing Derby” on Saturday, June 9 in celebration of National Get Outdoors Day, Alabama Free Fishing Day and National Fishing and Boating Week. The Forest Service, which hosts the yearly event to help interest young people in wildlife conservation and outdoor recreation, stocked a pond with about 450 pounds of catfish and invited area youngsters to try their luck. A highlight of this year’s Derby was the National Wild Turkey Federation’s “Jakes Take Aim” Shooting Booth. All children had the opportunity to practice their marksmanship and received a free membership to the NWTF’s Jakes club.
A total of 65 children (with accompanying adults) from surrounding counties came to the Black Warrior Work Center on the Bankhead National Forest to compete for trophies in three age categories. Contestants fished for approximately 1 ½ hours and the winners in each age group were decided by measuring the longest fish caught by each individual.
The largest fish overall, a 21” catfish, was caught by John Thomas Linley of Haleyville.
In the 5-6 year old age group, Eli Morrill of Athens took the first place trophy with a 18 ¼” catfish. Maddie Mertens of Houston captured second place.
Blayne Crawford of Danville won the first place trophy in the 7 - 9 year old group. Andrew Barker of Haleyville won the second place trophy.
In the 10 – 12 year old category, Austin Breedwell of Houston took the first place trophy and Zachary Wright of Double Springs took the second place trophy.
All first place winners and the winner of the largest fish overall received Lifetime Fishing Licenses which were donated by the Alabama Conservation Enforcement Officers Association.
In addition to the fishing competition, a casting contest was held in which Tanner Garcia of Double Springs won in the 5 – 6 year old division; Blayne Crawford of Danville won in the 7 – 9 year old division; and Gauge Bridges of Haleyville won the 10 – 12 year old division. All three received a new rod and reel as their prize. Johsua Dempsey also received a new rod as a prize for catching the albino catfish.
The Derby concluded with drawing for door prizes, awarding of trophies to contest winners and a hotdog lunch. This year’s event was sponsored by a grant to the Winston County Natural Resources Council from the Winston County Commission, a grant from the National Wild Turkey Federation, the Double Springs Lions Club, the Alabama Division of Wildlife and Freshwater Fisheries, Sipsey Strutters Moulton Chapter and Bankhead Beards and Spurs Winston County Chapter of the National Wild Turkey Federation, Alabama Conservation Enforcement Officers Association, and the Bankhead National Forest.
A big “THANK YOU” from Smokey Bear to everyone who continue to help make the Kid’s Fishing Derby a great success.