Derby gives youngsters angling opportunity

CALUMET TOWNSHIP – When Calumet’s Lindsay White was young, she talked Dad into baiting the hooks when they went fishing. Now she’s a parent herself and the worm, as they say, has turned.

“Mom had to learn to do the worms, because the kids won’t do it,” she said Saturday at the Calumet-Keweenaw Sportsman’s Club Kids’ Fishing Derby.

But the kids were outdoors, learning to love fishing, and possibly, someday, to bait their own hooks. The derby, now in its 10th year, is a favorite for White and her children. “I love it. We come every year,” she said. “It keeps the kids interested in fishing because we actually catch ’em.”

According to Mike Dudenas, president of the sportsman’s club, 155 kids, most between the ages of about 2 and 12, brought 172 fish in to be measured during the derby, which ran from 10 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. Saturday at the Swedetown ponds. Catches included rainbow trout, perch, bullhead and shiners.

The sportsman’s club provided loaner poles and bait for any kid needing one, and even had someone on hand to help with the worms. There was also a hot dog and watermelon lunch, a presentation by professional fishermen Mark Butke and Dan Dube of the Copper Country Walleye Association, and prizes including bikes and fishing poles for the largest catches and random raffle winners, as well as goodie bags for each and every kid.

The goal of the derby, according to Dudenas, is to give kids a chance to fish who don’t regularly have the opportunity. Fellow sportsman’s club member Bruce Harter said they seemed to be succeeding in that regard, estimating that about half the kids had little fishing experience.

“The little ones, 3 and 4, it’s probably their first time here,” Harter said.

One of those little ones was Mika Advani, who was in town from California to visit her great-aunt, Sylvia Munch.

“It’s the third time (fishing) in her life,” Munch said. “They don’t have as much water in California.”

“It’s definitely good to have the chance,” she added. “They need this kind of outdoor activity for their mind and for their body.”

Mika herself was a bit more pragmatic about fishing.

Fishing is fun, she agreed, “when you get to fry it in the pan.”

There were two grand prize winners in the Derby, Isaac Bennets with a 10 3/4-inch fish and Chad Pietila with a 10 1/2-inch fish. Malina Kestie won the girls’ category with a 9 and 1/4-incher, and Vallon Collins took the boys’ prize with a 10 1/4-inch fish.

Butke said he and Dube enjoyed helping out, and hoped some of the kids would grow up to be the next generation of fishery stewards, helping to stock ponds and lakes like the sportsman’s club and the Walleye Association do now.

For now, he said, “It’s awesome to set these little guys up and show them how to fish. It’s nice to see them succeed, see it light up their eyes.”