Fishing derby fills Riparian Park

By on April 2, 2014

Lots of kids came out Saturday for the annual worm sacrifice, a cherished spring tradition at Riparian Park thanks to the Lititz Sportsman’s Association.

These volunteers “secretly” fill the stream with 1,000 trout. It’s designed to make sure every little one catches a big one. The young anglers go through their fishing rituals and some show up in the dark to reserve their spot. Since they can’t fish until the horn sounds at 8 a.m., they wait and socialize or just stare at the water. And when that horn sounds, the stream banks of Lititz Run are packed to the gills.

With that many poles and people, there are plenty of mishaps with tangled lines, accidental human hooking and kids losing their footing and slipping into the muddy water. The low-hanging tree branches were an added challenge for this wild casting party.

But the pros are always on hand to iron out the wrinkles.

“Nothing happens here that any of us can’t handle,” said sportsman Flip Musser.

fishing4Flip and the other volunteers did a fabulous job. They love what they do and give up their own opening day of trout season to be with these kids. Some families don’t know how to fish, and the volunteers are patient with teaching and handling problems, especially when lines get crossed. Stray hooks caused a few choice words until the Record Express camera came around, and then it was all smiles, like a gymnast after a bad routine.

The adorable toddler girls offer another fun element. For Christmas they got pink princess fishing rods made for their size, and now they finally get to bob for sparkly Hello Kitty Nemos, or so they think. They’re in for a bit of a surprise when they approach the fillet table.

“You pinch the sides of the head and the bottom of the throat comes out,” said Gordon Lind, who has been handling the volunteer gutting job for at least 15 years.

“You stick the knife through it and then tear it down and rip the insides out. It rips the fins off the bottom and then all you have to do is cut the head off and you’re ready to go,” said Lind, who even knows the age of every fish.

“The kids get grossed out, but I really enjoy interacting with the kids,” he continued. “They say, ‘Do you remember me from last year?’ “I love it.”

Those weary from the cold took breaks and enjoyed free goodies provided by the sportsmen &tstr; doughnuts, coffee, hot chocolate, Hershey Kisses, and hot dogs. It was a community picnic, the first of the spring season.

And of course, part of the fun is getting a little dirty. Parents wisely put off their kids’ baths until after the event. A few girls with pony tails kept replacing some straggly hairs in their face with mud. Their dads didn’t seem to notice or mind.

And then there are the proud moms who want their daughters to study engineering, change a car transmission and learn how to fish. Their girls were right there in the trenches.

“Women can fish, and it doesn’t mean they can’t dress cute,” said Jessica Cox while sporting J. Crew red and ecru damask wellies.

No fish-saving hippies came out this year and the families took their already filleted fish by Gordie home for trout almandine or a fish fry.

Not only is the morning a great fun event, but they give away lots of prizes such as cash, tackle boxes and rods & reels. Awards are given for first, second, third, and fourth largest fish, and for catching the more rare golden trout.

It’s a win-win event, and even if the kids don’t continue to fish past their childhood, they will have wonderful memories of this day.

Kids don’t need to wait a year to fish with the Lititz Sportsman’s Association.

“We have a Handicap Fishing Derby in June and a Family Fun Day on Memorial Day right here which will again be trout fishing,” said Dick Fridinger who runs the kids day.

Michele Walter Fry is a freelance feature writer for the Record Express. She welcomes your comments at michelewalterfry@gmail.com.

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