Looking forward to welcoming youths and their families to a new location for the May 15 Kid’s Fishing Derby are (above, from left) North Branch Trout Derby Association president Bruce Pitts, board member Cindy Boyd, and volunteers Steve and Kathleen Kuzmics.
The North Branch Kid’s Trout Derby, which had to be canceled at the last minute in 2020, will return on Saturday, May 15 at a new location. Though the move came as a bit of a surprise to organizers of the popular family outing, they are confident that the change in venue is representative of a new direction for the North Branch Trout Derby Association (NBTDA).
For one thing, the pond at 4962 Windy Valley Road, Mehoopany (Forkston) is about three times bigger than the previous pond, and there is ample room for parking right at the event site. “If it weren’t for Rich Lawson, we wouldn’t have a place that is as nice, safe and accessible,” NBTDA president Bruce Pitts said of the generosity of the landowner. Admission is free, there will be food and beverages available for purchase, and the young anglers can win prizes and trophies.
“It’s a beautiful pond. I can’t wait to see the kids standing around it,” stated NBTDA board member Cindy Boyd. More space, she noted, will also allow for safe-distancing and adherence to the CDC COVID guidelines of the day. “It’s all about the children getting out to enjoy the outdoors. I’m really pleased that we’re going to be able to move forward.”
Boyd has already begun taking preregistration from parents via the organization’s Facebook page – North Branch Trout Derby Association – and had communicated with 30 parents of children in each group as of March 22. In the interest of safety, adults are already restricting their own involvement.
“It won’t be mom and dad and the grandparents with each kid this year,” Boyd said of the changes. Parents are voluntarily limiting themselves to one adult per about three children. “That may hurt us a bit,” she said in reference to the snack bar, Chinese auction, and raffles held throughout the event.
Organizers have already begun dismantling the structures that had been built over the last 15 years at the previous location in Lovelton and moving them to Forkston. Even with a team of volunteers, the process will likely cost the NBTDA a couple thousand dollars. That is usually “seed” money to help pay for $7,000 in trout from the nursery and other supplies. The remainder of the funds needed to provide an exceptional experience for the children comes from individuals, area businesses, the community and other organizations that set up exhibits at the fish derby.
Approximately one thousand trout between 11 and 25 inches will be put in the pond after organizers have done some sounding to test depth and water sampling to ensure the health of the fish. There are already numerous bass, sunfish and catfish in the pond, Pitts noted. Cash donations 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.
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. Registration begins at 9 am on May 15, and the derby should 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, Mehoopany Creek Watershed Association, Endless Mountain Primitive Outdoorsmen, Tunkhannock Kiwanis, and the National Wild Turkey Federation – Lower Lackawanna County Long Spurs have provided exhibits and talked with guests.
“I would think that this is going to be a banner year,” said Pitts. In addition to interest and support remaining high, parents seem pleased with proposed safety measures. “Whatever the government mandates are, which change every day, we should be able to spread the kids out here.” Organizers are prepared to stagger start times if further separation is needed.
NBTDA will return to the site from 10 am to 2 pm on Sunday, May 16 for a subsequent fishing derby geared to children with special needs and veterans with disabilities. Interested readers should secure preregistration via Facebook messenger 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 will likely be held in the late summer or early autumn. Locations for both have yet to be determined.
The NBTDA is always looking for new volunteers, as well as new people to help refresh the nine-member board. As for the Kid’s Trout Derby, 2021 is a “venture year” that allows for organizers to prove that they can be successful anywhere. “We are looking for a permanent home,” Pitts remarked. “Hopefully, this is it.”
“We’re definitely moving in a new direction,” said Boyd. “It’s just costly to do so. So donations this year will mean a lot.” Monetary contributions can be mailed to NBTDA, PO Box 503, Tunkhannock, PA 18657. Boyd is fielding questions via Facebook, and Pitts is taking calls at 570-928-8719 from those who don’t have internet access.