Well it's done. That is my participation in two fishing
events in Western Massachusetts. The first event was a
Kiwanis sponsored kids fishing derby in my hometown of
Northfield. The event is held on a small pond. Fencing
is put up on either end the night before the event. Late
in the evening we help to stock 200 trout, all 12" or
larger. It is clearly beyond the carrying capacity of
that pond, but we have plans for that. The fishing derby
starts at 6:00 the next morning. Coffee and juice as well
as doughnuts are supplied.
There are prizes for catching a tagged fish and about half
a dozen or so are caught every year. The prizes consist of
tackle boxes, fishing rods or other inexpensive gear. Not
the best equipment, but something to allow the new angler
to get out again on his or her own. There are no rules about
catch and release or catch limits but we do encourage good
practices. We have a campfire built and for those who would
like we cook up their catch. That is certainly one way to get
For the most part people are respectful of the derby rules.
There was one family that came and the dads hooked and played
the fish until the fish were exhausted, then they passed the
rods onto their young teen-aged children and they reeled them
in. The fish were then dispatched into the cooler. We had
other parents who hooked fish for their youngest kids and
that seemed all right. That family certainly took the rules
to the limit. The take home lesson for their kids was that
it's okay to bend the rules and who cares. It was mentioned
to the parents that it seemed a bit over the top and their
response was that they had licenses, so...we let it drop.
There were plenty of fish and a fight did not seem in order.
This is an issue for us to work on for next year.
The best part of this event is watching the parents and adults
help the kids. What was outstanding was the number of adults
working with their kids and working with other kids. Adults
who knew helped those who did not. It was great to watch a
group of adults rooting for the few children who had not yet
caught anything, moving other kids out of the best spots so
that everyone had a chance to catch. There was no fighting,
no whining, just a group of happy children enjoying what we
love best. This is America at its finest.
The other event was a bit more complex. We have started an
annual event that is involving many aspects of fish and
fishing within the town of Turners Falls. Our goal was to
bring together in one event a place where people could
learn about fish and fishing, get lessons in many aspects
of fishing and actually catch fish. This was done in partnership
with the Silvio Conte National Wildlife Refuge's Great Falls
Discovery Center www.greatfallsma.org, the MassWildlife
www.mass.gov/dfwele/dfw which is the Massachusetts Division
of Fisheries and Wildlife. We also included local organizations
and businesses and a core of volunteers. This was one example
of federal and local governments working hand in hand with
individuals that worked very well.
We started out with a core group of people committed to working
on the event. There were no "managers." Everyone who came to
meetings did the work that came out of the meetings. We started
with an idea of what core pieces we wanted to see at the event.
- A place to fish with equipment to loan.
We then found people to commit to working on each of those aspects.
Mass Wildlife has a program where they have instructors come with
spinning rods for teaching spinning and with bait for fishing.
Bob Soussa was kind enough to bring out his fly casting equipment
which he has for teaching casting. He came with 6 rods, about
all our area could hold. Western Mass Fly Fishers volunteered
to come and set up three tying stations of their own and three
vises for students to tie their first flies. The state based
fund donated rods and tackle boxes to be given away or raffled.
Regal vise made a donation of equipment, the Gill store, a local
business donated drinks and I created the power point presentation
that showed pictures and told of many good fishing places in the
Franklin county area as well as dispensed advise about fish habits
and the importance of taking out what you bring in. We planned on
what the event would look like if the weather was good and what
we would do if it was raining. Once we had the basics together
we went outside our group and solicited others (like the Gill
store) to consider sponsoring the event. It was our first time
so we had no requirements. Sign on the list and contribute one
nickel, you were able to be on the sponsor's list. After the
initial contacts were done we put together a flier for publicity.
We also had an e-mail list of all the local new sources so we
could get out publicity that way. Our fliers went out to local
schools and storefronts. All area media were notified. Contributions
were collected or people were contacted again. By the time the day
of the event came we were ready!
- A place to learn to spin fish
- A place to learn to fly cast
- A place to have fly-tying demonstrations and participation
- Information about fishing spots in the area
- Free giveaways to bring people to the event and
to encourage future fishing
Sleeping was difficult the night before, mostly because the
sound of the rain, or more accurately the deluge. It has rained
harder than it did that night, I just don't remember when. By
morning the rain had slacked off. Everything outside was wet
and there was a light mist falling. The sky was ominous and
as we gathered for breakfast at the local watering hole we
all agreed that we would set everything up inside. The only
outside events were to be the casting instruction and the
fishing. We called for the event start at 10:00 and by 9:00
we had all the areas set up and were busy greeting the exhibitors.
Sadly, probably due to the rain a number of them did not show
up. We had the fly tiers, the casting and fishing instructors,
some good hands on events for kids and some general information.
A number of local businesses tailored their offerings to coincide
with our event. The local book store was highlighting The
Founding Fish by John McPhee, which talks about Turners
Falls and our internationally recognized Fish Lab. The fish ladder
was in full swing, with Lamprey eels and Shad migrating. There
was a power point presentation that ran continuously and a number
of volunteers that together had an enourmous amount of information
to share. A few minutes before 10:00 people started to trickle in.
Within a short time the trickle became a flow. The rain came
again and slacked off all day but it did not seem to stop the
enthusiasm of the people coming to the event.
The fly tiers bench was always full with people watching
and people tying their first flies.
We had about 50 people go down to the casting and fishing
area and fish. Some caught fish and others did not.
We had about 30 people take fly casting lessons. Each one of
them was able to get out at least 30 feet of line cast in a
straight and "acceptable" cast. Add that to 9' of leader, 9'
of rod and a two foot reach we had people throwing their fly
about 50'. I was impressed.
Our raffle ran every 15 minutes and when we were done we had
given away over 25 fishing rods and more tackle boxes as well
as other prizes. In the end the highlight of the day was the
They came, they learned they fished and almost every one of
them was a sure thing to try fishing again. We learned a
lot about how to make this event successful. Next year it
will be bigger and better and hopefully we will have nicer
weather. My advice to those considering putting on an event
like this is to get others to help. Remember your goals and
involve others through out the process. We will do it again
and you might want to also. Email me if you want help,
suggestions or encouragement. ~ Jed firstname.lastname@example.org
I have been fishing since I was a child and fly fishing for
over 35 years. I fish cold water, warm water and salt water.
I currently live with my wife in Western Massachusetts where
my new goal: To become a certified Mass Wildlife fishing
instructor. ~ jed