Connecting Kids to Nature through Fishing…for 42 Years
BY KJETIL HENDERSON AND ALLISON LENAERTS, CARTERVILLE FWCO
in the toddler pool at the Crab Orchard kids fishing derby. Credit: Allison Lenaerts,
The Carterville Fish and Wildlife Conservation Office partnered with the Illinois Department of Natural Resources and Crab Orchard National Wildlife Refuge to host the 42nd annual Kids Fishing Derby at Crab Orchard National Wildlife Refuge. The June 13th event, which coincides with Illinois Free Fishing Days, annually provides community outreach, educational opportunities, and fun for young anglers.
Crab Orchard Lake is a popular Southern Illinois fishery known for bluegill, crappie, and bass fishing. The 6,965 acre Williamson County reservoir has 125 miles of shoreline. Each year, over 180,000 fishing visits are made to Crab Orchard National Wildlife Refuge. Carterville FWCO personnel started the morning off with some electrofishing, catching many fish species including largemouth bass, redear sunfish, gizzard shad, crappie, freshwater drum, brook silverside, spotted gar, and bluegill.
electrofishing demonstration at the Crab Orchard event. Credit: Kjetil
This event was created to give children an opportunity to get outdoors and enjoy some fishing. Angling gear was provided for children as needed. The 2015 derby had 147 participants who caught and released a total of 610 fish. Prizes were awarded to children in certain age classes for biggest fish, smallest fish and most fish caught by a single angler. Age classes were: under 5, 5-6, 7-8, 9-10, and 11-12. The biggest fish of the derby (26”) was caught by Ella Horn, and Andrew Sheely caught the smallest fish (2 ½”). Dylan Taylor caught a total of 27 fish!
largemouth bass that jumped out to greet her
at the toddler tank! Credit: Allison Lenaerts,
Carterville FWCO personnel entertained kids with a tank of live fish caught that morning. Young kids were provided fishing poles and “magnetic fish” to catch. The “cheetah print” fish (aka spotted gar), was a big hit with the kids; parents were impressed with size of a 9+ inch redear sunfish. A grilled lunch was provided for participants after the derby.
This annual event provides a great avenue for community outreach and involvement. The kids were all smiles, and certainly enjoyed fishing success. We want to thank Crab Orchard National Wildlife Refuge and the Illinois Department of Natural Resources for making the 42nd annual Kids Fishing Derby an incredible success!