The Bankhead National Forest held the 22nd annual “Kids Fishing Derby” on Saturday, June 7 in celebration of National Fishing and Boating Week and Alabama Free Fishing Day. The Forest Service, which hosts the yearly event to help interest young people in wildlife conservation and outdoor recreation, stocked a pond with about 350 pounds of catfish and invited area youngsters to try their luck. This year’s event also included a celebration of the 50th Anniversary of the Wilderness Act and National Trails Day. Children and parents learned about hiking and camping in the Sipsey Wilderness Area and the “Leave No Trace” philosophy. Highlights of this year’s Derby included a surprise visit from Smokey Bear, the National Wild Turkey Federation’s “Jakes Take Aim” Shooting Booth and art projects like creating fish petroglyphs. All children received a free membership to the NWTF’s Jakes club and a fishing derby t-shirt complements of the Alabama Conservation Enforcement Officers Association.
Over 100 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 was caught by Xander Bell of Double Springs.
In the 5-6 year old age group, Braden Kachelman of Florence took the first place trophy. Alyvia McElwaney of Trinity captured second place.
Abbie Wells of Trinity won the first place trophy in the 7 - 9 year old group. Bryant Addison of Trinity won the second place trophy.
In the 10 – 12 year old category, Jade Wilson of Phil Campbell took the first place trophy and Eric Wilson of Phil Campbell took the second place trophy.
In addition to the fishing competition, a casting contest was held in which Ellie Grace Gilliland of Moulton won in the 5 – 6 year old division; John Cade Stone of Double Springs won in the 7 – 9 year old division; and Hunter Fields of Double Springs won the 10 – 12 year old division. All three received a new rod and reel and tackle box as their prize.
The Derby concluded with drawing for door prizes, awarding of trophies to contest winners and a hotdog lunch. This year’s event was funded by a grant to the Winston County Natural Resources Council from the Winston County Commission, a grant from the National Wild Turkey Federation, and the US Forest Service. Sponsors of the 2014 Kids Fishing Derby include 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, Winston County Natural Resource Council, Wild South, and the Bankhead National Forest.
A big “THANK YOU” from Smokey Bear to everyone who continue to help make the Kids Fishing Derby a great success.