Fishing derby hooks young anglers
After pulling the first fish of the day out of Finger Lake near Palmer, Eagle River’s Matthew Williams, 10, was asked if he’d like to hang onto the small rainbow trout or turn it loose.
“Keep it!” Williams said, grinning as an official in the annual Eagle River Lions Kids Fishing Derby measured his catch.
It was a good move, as Williams claimed first place in the 9-to-13 age group.
Kim Damrill won the 5-to-8 age group and also claimed the top prize for largest fish. Additional prizes for neon bowling at the Eagle River Bowl were given to drawing winners Trinity Damrill, Skylar McLean and Skylar Rhynes.
More than 70 kids — most of them from Chugiak-Eagle River and Joint Base Elmendorf Richardson — turned out under partly sunny skies on Saturday, March 17, for the derby, which the Lions host each year as a way to get kids into the sport of ice fishing.
Lions volunteers used power augers to drill dozens of holes into the thick ice of the lake, which according to volunteers John Anctil and Randy Howard is still about four feet thick.
Justin and Amber Duff, of JBER, brought their two kids, Alexis, 7, and Caden, 5, to the event as a way to get the kids a taste of the “real” Alaska. The Army family has been in Alaska for only a year, so Amber said she saw a posting on the 6th Engineers’ brigade’s Facebook page the night before, the family jumped at the chance.
“We’ve got a bucket list, and this was on it,” she said.
Peering into her ice hole intently, Alexis Duff said she’s already an accomplished fisherwoman, having caught a fish last year at the Anchorage Sportsman’s Show, where she won a prize for her catch.
“I like it!” she said with a grin.
Event organizer Pat Mahoney said bait — a mixture of shrimp and salmon eggs — along with poles and gear was provided by Boondock’s Sporting Goods, and Mike’s Meats donated hamburgers and hot dogs.
“Without them we could not do this,” Mahoney said while keeping a close eye on the grill.
With the smell of fresh-cooked meat and hot chocolate wafting over the lake and giant Pioneer and Matanuska Peaks looming in the background, the event was everything Shanna and Joe Radosevich were looking for when they brought their two sons, Hadyn, 4, and Rylan, 2, out to the lake. An Air Force family, the Radosevich’s said the experience was the kind of thing that makes being stationed in Alaska worthwhile.
“We want to see Alaska and experience it wherever we can,” Joe Radosevich said.
While the fishing was excellent on the lake, the catching was a bit challenging, Mahoney said. Just two fish were turned in for entry into the derby, although that didn’t seem to bother most of the young anglers on the lake.
Robert Poland, of Eagle River, brought Shane Wood, 6, to the lake for a day of fun. Poland said the idea of getting kids out on the ice actually has little do with hauling in a lunker and everything to do with showing youngsters how to enjoy the great outdoors.
“It’s called fishing, not catching,” he said.