A day for kids Sportsmen gladly give up opening day for derby

By on April 5, 2012

By: SARA MILLER Record Express Staff, Staff Writer

Photos by Dennis Bicksler
The Lititz Sportsmen's Association hosted its annual Kids' Fishing Derby, March 31, in Warwick Township Riparian Park, the first day of trout season for Pennsylvania's southeastern region.

It was cold, damp and gray. Perfect weather for the opening day of trout fishing, when anglers young and old traditionally line local streams in search of gilled trophies.

Traditionally speaking, Lititz sportsmen give up their opening day each year to pass on their love for the sport to the next generation of fishing enthusiasts. And year after year, Gordon Lind, the guy who guts the fish caught by hundreds of children, is front and center at Lititz’s big opening day event.

The annual Kids Fishing Derby, sponsored by the Lititz Sportsmen’s Association, kicks off bright and early at Warwick Township’s Riparian Park (Rt. 772 and Clay Road). Volunteers from the club stock the stream, grill free hot dogs for the youngsters and provide just about everything needed for a fun family event … including prizes for the day’s top catches. And Gordon is there to clean each and every one.

Children ages 15 and under, along with their families, are welcome to participate. Last Saturday, about 75 people took part, said Dick Fridinger, event coordinator for the Sportsmen. According to Fridinger, the aquatic nursery run by his club, nearby on Lititz Run Road, provides approximately 1,000 trout — large, small, rainbow, brown, brook, golden and palomino — for the derby. Annually, the nursery raises about 14,000 trout.

This year, the first young fisherman to reach the five-trout limit was Cody Zellers, 9, of Manheim, a four-year fishing derby veteran. He was awarded a rod and reel for his efforts.

Of course, catching the fish is only part of the process (the fun part). Cody and the other children then take their bounty over to Gordon, long-time club member and event volunteer, who preps them for the frying pan. He takes great pride in teaching the kids his seemingly effortless method.

"Hold them upside down, pinch their head in so they don’t move, slice this part of the belly … squeeze the head and this comes out, just pop it open like that and it rips the whole thing off," he explained to Cody.

Easy, right?

It might take a little practice.

Gordon’s record is 300 fish, gutted and cleaned, in one day.

A dedicated fisherman himself, Gordon has been sacrificing the earliest hours of trout fishing each year to clean for the kids. He’s not sure how many years he’s been providing this invaluable service, but it’s been more than a decade. Who’s counting?

"It’s my contribution (to the club)," he said, pointing out how the joy in children’s eyes and their reactions after they catch their first fish make it all worthwhile.

It also helps out his buddy, who uses the trout heads for raccoon trapping. Nothing gets wasted.

Gordon is one of many club members who love to fish, but feel strongly that this youth-oriented event takes precedence. Another is Dale Nye, an avid fisherman of 67 years, who has no qualms about postponing his trout fishing until the conclusion of the derby. And Jack Pyott was up at 4 a.m. to prep for the event. He said he’s been fishing the first day of trout season since World War II.

"It’s part of spring time (for me)," he said.

He’s passed that joy on to his family, who joined him Saturday in Riparian Park.

As for the younger fishermen, Jonathan Hubbard of Lancaster, 13, has been fishing in Lititz Run since he was 4. He won the prize (rod and reel) for catching the first golden trout.

"He’s a consummate fisherman," said his proud father, Mark, pointing out that his son seizes every opportunity to fish. "This is like his favorite day of the year."

Attaining the second limit was Justin Martin, 12, of Lancaster. He took home a tackle box and $10.

Largest trout honors went to Evan Younth of Denver, 7, who won a rod and reel for his 19-inch brown.

Alex Ritter, 11, of Manheim, received recognition for the second largest trout, a 15 1/4-inch rainbow, in the form of a tackle box and $10.

Brothers Zachary, 8, and Corey Claire, 12, were waiting on their grandfather to join them, and he knew exactly where to find them.

"We’ve been going, actually, to this spot for probably six (or) seven years," said Ray Claire, Zachary and Corey’s father. Their usual fishing spot is in a deeper area of the stream, by a dam. Zachary said the rapids are where he believes all the fish are hiding.

Meanwhile, Pyott’s expert strategy is to change the bait every five to 10 minutes until something bites. Nye said he uses the longer fly fishing rod for best results. Hubbard said he started strategizing for the big day the night before. His secret, he shared, is "just throw (the line) like around 2-3 feet in front of the fish."

Strategies and memories — together with Gordon and his fellow volunteer sportsmen, they make the annual fishing derby a family event unlike any other.

The Lititz Sportsmen’s Association is hosting two other spring fishing events at Riparian Park. A Family Fun Day is scheduled for Memorial Day, May 28, from 8 a.m.-1 p.m. A Trout Fishing Derby for people with disabilities is slated Sunday, June 3 from 10 a.m.-3:30 p.m. Neither event requires a fishing license. For more information, call Ken Heiser at 626-4876 or 404-7827. More FISHING, page A15

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