In the quiet, still morning hours of Saturday, June 9, children aged 5 to 12 cast their fishing lines into the reservoir at Indian Brook Pond in Essex, as part of the Essex Youth Fishing Derby.
The event was an effort by Essex Parks and Recreation to get kids and their guardians outside. For the participants, it afforded the opportunity to learn or continue a sport often taught to them by parents, grandparents or other mentors, but for those folks, the event offered a chance to spend time with the children they love.
Essex Parks & Rec has held the derby for more than a decade, according to Adriane Martin, the department’s program coordinator. It typically falls on the second Saturday of June when the fish are in season. This year, 10 children competed in the event, Martin said.
Nicole Mone-St. Marthe, parks & rec administrative assistant and the “resident fish expert,” said the event ran from 8-10 a.m., and prizes were awarded within age groups for the longest and heaviest fish.
Mone-St. Marthe said participants were most likely to catch bass, trout, sunfish and perch.
“They can use any bait they want. When they get here, they get a goodie bag with a fake worm, bobber, lollipop and a bug bracelet,” she said. “We try to do catch-and-release.”
Mone-St. Marthe said the town’s goal was getting children outside and in a different environment than they might be accustomed to.
“Hopefully it’s instilling a lifelong appreciation of the sport,” Martin added.
For Stuart Timmons and his children Allen, 9, and Sean, 6, bringing his boys to the derby was about sharing his love of fishing, which he’s done since he was his sons’ age.
Allen was happy to share that he’d caught four fish that morning: three pumpkinseed and one crappie.
“It’s my first time in a fishing derby but not my first time fishing here,” he said. “I like seeing the fish and getting my hands dirty with the worms.”
“I like catch-and-release,” Sean added with a small smile.
Timmons watched his sons and offered advice as they attempted to catch the longest and heaviest fish Indian Brook Reservoir had to offer.
Just adjacent to Timmons were 8-year-old LucyLou Wilson of Essex and her uncle, John McMorrow, of Winooski, who stood with a catch in their bucket and a line in the water. It was their first time fishing together. That morning, the duo had caught five fish, and LucyLou named each one as they placed them in the bucket for judging.
For 7-year-old Dylan Capron and his father, Shane, of Essex, the event was a way to be together in a place they both love.
“He loves being outside. He’d rather be outside than inside,” Capron said, as his son intently watched his fishing pole. Dylan began fishing when he was 4 and had already caught a sunfish, trout and perch, his dad said.
“Now it’s time for a bass,” Dylan added with a sheepish grin.
Nearby, Sammy Ercole, 8, of Essex Jct. cast the pole he won at the 2017 derby into the reservoir with the hope of defending his title.
“I’ve won all of the years,” he said.
Well, four out of his five years, family friend Christy Maynard clarified. The Ercole family participates every year because Sammy’s dad, Joseph, loves the sport. But it was Maynard’s first time fishing since high school and her first time at Indian Brook Park.
“It’s just beautiful,” she said. “It’s great that they get all the kids … teaching them to go out and get up early in the morning.”
At day’s end, the kids caught 16 fish. Four children received prizes for their efforts, but it seemed the biggest “win” of the day was the time spent in nature with family and friends.
5-7 yrs old winners:
Chase Hayes, bass, 10.25 inches and 6.5 oz.
Sammy Ercole, sunfish, 7.75 inches and 5 oz
8-12 yrs old winners:
LucyLou Wilson, bass, 10.25 inches, 8 oz
Maddie Hayes, bass, 9 inches and 5 oz.