Fishing derby starts today
By CAROLINE RAY
Journal Staff Writer
Fish for prizes and enjoy the sun at the 35th annual Kids Free Fishing Derby in Richmond Township this weekend. The Richmond Community Club is opening its doors today to any kid who wishes to participate in its free public fishing competition.
This year there will be three age divisions for children up to the age of 16. Winners in each category receive a trophy and a fishing rod, but every participant will leave with a prize thanks to the donations of area businesses. After the competition, parents are encouraged to return at 7 p.m. for a performance from local band Shag Lake Drive.
Event organizer Theresa Mauldin said the derby started as a personal event hosted by friends of the club for their children. But in the past 35 years, the event has grown and expanded to include the entire community.
Mauldin has been involved with the derby for 32 years. She estimates that up to 250 participants have attended in previous years, and that in this weekend’s competition organizers expect at least 100 competitors.
The day is focused on the local community, but due to its popularity, families travel from all over to participate.
The goal is to encourage kids’ interest in outdoor sports and to expand their access to fishing.
The club operates the derby as a nonprofit entity.
“Every penny we get goes to the kids,” Mauldin said. “It takes a small army to put it on.”
The event is possible due to the generous prize donations from local businesses of toys and food. The fish released from the hatchery are funded by a grant.
If adults eat lunch or come to watch the band, they are encouraged to donate what they can afford.
The club has received further support from the Michigan Department of Natural Resources, and it was able to purchase this year’s batch of rainbow trout thanks to a grant provided by the Carbon Free Group.
After the event, the planted fish are released to travel downstream.
The creek where the event takes place is owned in part by the DNR and the competition follows all state regulations, Mauldin said. The competition also corresponds with the statewide Three Free Weekend hosted by the DNR.
This statewide weekend-long event starts on Saturday and ends Sunday. During these two days, ORV permits and fishing license fees will be waived and Recreation Passports wil not be required to access state land. According to the DNR website, the goal of the weekend is to “encourage people to pursue free fishing and other outdoor fun.”
They host other free weekends throughout the year and there will be another free ORV weekend in August and a free ice-fishing weekend in February.
No matter what the age, this weekend is full of opportunity to enjoy Michigan’s state forests and catch some fish.