Looking forward to welcoming anglers back to Windy Valley Road in Forkston for this year’s North Branch Kid’s Trout Derby and subsequent Special Needs & Veterans Day are (above, from left) Steve Bray, Bobby Richter, Joe Wruble, Jaime Radwanski, Charlie Price, and Bruce Pitts. Last year, the event drew more than 300 people to Lawson’s Pond.
Members of the North Branch Trout Derby Association (NBTDA) have been busy improving the grounds at 4962 Windy Valley Road, Mehoopany (Forkston) in anticipation of welcoming hundreds of children and their families to the annual North Branch Kid’s Trout Derby on Saturday, May 21. A change in venue last year provided room for a record crowd in excess of 300 people, and their will be space this year for even more.
Admission to the event is free. Food and beverages will be available for purchase, as will tickets for basket raffles and other prizes donated by local residents and area businesses. Young anglers win prizes throughout the tournament, which is basically a big fishing party complete with music and other children’s activities. Older youths – 13 to 16 years of age – will have the option this year of supervised fishing in the main branch of nearby Mehoopany Creek.
Age groups for the Trout Derby are 1 to 4, 5 to 7, 8 to 10, 11 to 12, and 13 to 16. There are prizes for first, largest and most fish, as well as additional surprises throughout the event. Check-in begins at 8 am on May 21, and the derby will kick off around 10 am. In addition to the raffle that offers thousands of dollars in donated cash prizes and other fun gifts, a Chinese auction will be held throughout the tournament.
In previous year, groups like Quality Deer Management (above), Mehoopany Creek Watershed Association, Endless Mountain Primitive Outdoorsmen, and Wyoming County 4-H will provide exhibits and talk with guests. Volunteers from FWM Fire Company and FWM Emergency Services will also be on hand. The Tunkhannock Kiwanis and the National Wild Turkey Federation – Lower Lackawanna County Long Spurs have participated in previous years and continue to support the NBTDA.
In addition to volunteers who will help youths clean their fish, there are plans this year to show the young anglers how to prepare the fish for eating. Smoked fish prepared in advance will be available during the derby for sampling.
“We found that some people were wasting the fish,” said NBTDA president Bruce Pitts, “And we want the kids to know how good they taste.”
NBTDA members considered last year’s event a “practice run” that gave them the opportunity to prove that the derby could be successful anywhere after making a quick move from their former location in Lovelton. In the course of 15 years, the organization has gone from purchasing 300 fish for $1,500 to ordering 2,000 fish for this year at $10,000.
Monetary donations from generous donors – or underwriters – help to cover that cost and allow for more people to participate. Cash donations also help the NBTDA purchase some larger fish from the hatchery to add some more excitement to the friendly competition. About a dozen of the smaller fish are tagged for youths to win special prizes like fishing tackle and gift certificates for area businesses.
While much of the communication between the public and the NBTDA has gone through their Facebook page in recent years, the organization now has an enhanced website, www.nbtda.org, that is better equipped to handle registration and arrange for donations.
“The community involvement has been over the top,” said NBTDA president Bruce Pitts, who noted that donations are always welcome. Pickup through the Endless Mountains region can be arranged for material donations for basket raffles and the Chinese auction. Organizers are looking forward to even bigger smiles on the faces of the youths when an ice cream truck arrives during the event. “Shhh! Don’t tell the kids,” Pitts joked.
Though Pitts has been at the helm of the organization for a number of years, he quickly gives credit for the ongoing success of the event to fellow members, landowner Rich Lawson, and the many volunteers who work behind the scenes and take care of important tasks on event day.
New members like Jaime Radwanski of Mehoopany, are motivated by the spirit that others bring to the effort. She was invited by her father to volunteer a few years ago. He wasn’t able to attend, but Jaime was hooked. “I love watching the kids learn about the outdoors and fishing,” she stated.
NBTDA will return to the site from 10 am to 2 pm on Sunday, May 22 for a subsequent fishing derby geared to people with special needs and veterans. “The veterans often help the kids with disabilities, which is very heart-warming,” Pitts remarked. Interested readers can secure preregistration via Facebook messenger or the website if they aren’t contacted personally by organizers.
Proceeds from the North Branch Trout Kid’s Trout Derby allow the NBTDA to sponsor additional events through the year, including a youth pheasant hunt in the fall and Women in the Wild. The latter provides an opportunity for women to work with instructors to shoot small caliber weapons and shotguns and is generally held in the late summer or early autumn.
Constructing a shed recently for the NBTDA’s new lawnmower were board member Joe Karmer of Sugar Run (left) and treasurer Joe Wruble of Dupont.