The Bankhead National Forest held the 25th annual “Kids Fishing Derby” on Saturday, June 10 in celebration of National Get Outdoors Day, 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 400 catfish and invited area youngsters to try their luck. This year’s event included a number of new educational programs. The theme of this year’s Derby was “Firewise”. Children were reminded to prevent wildfires by a visit from Smokey Bear. Adults learned about the Firewise program which included an exhibit and flyers on how to improve your home and community in case of wildfire. Additionally this year, participants learned about tick-borne illness and ongoing research in Bankhead National Forest. They also learned outdoor ethics including the “Leave No Trace” concept and about ethical and safe fishing and boating. This year children tried their hands at new outdoor skills including archery and shooting. The Alabama Division of Wildlife and Freshwater Fisheries set up an Archery Range and the National Wild Turkey Federation staffed the “Jakes Take Aim” Shooting Booth. 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.
Fifty-nine 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 Kane Hood of Double Springs.
In the 5-6 year old age group, Landon McDonald of Double Springs took the first place trophy. Jack Culberson of Florence, AL captured second place.
DJ Melson of Moulton won the first place trophy in the 7 - 9 year old group. Lily Kate Clark of Jasper won second place.
In the 10 – 12 year old category, Tanner Garcia of Double Springs took the first place trophy. Brilyn Dover of Addison took second place.
In addition to the fishing competition, a casting contest was held in which Morgan Shamblin of Cleveland, TN won in the 5 – 6 year old division; DJ Melson of Moulton won in the 7 – 9 year old division; and Nena Garrison 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 2017 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, Moulton Walmart, 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.