FORT SILL, Okla.--Between 250 and 300 young anglers and their families participated in the Fort Sill annual Kids Fishing Derby Saturday at Minor ponds here. The free public event featured a chance to take home lunkers, or the big catch, for children ages 3 through 15. There were also information booths and clinics, free food, an award ceremony and raffle drawings for fishing tackle during the three-hour event, which began at 7:30 a.m.

"We're teaching safety, sportsmanship and conservation," said Mark Conklin, Sportsmen Services' Fish and Wildlife supervisor, who coordinated the event. "We've had a pretty good breeze, it's not too hot and the kids are enjoying it."

The Natural Resources and Enforcement Branch, Environmental Quality Division, Directorate of Public Works, hosted the event at the three Minor ponds, which consist of East Minor Pond and the Minor Twins Ponds off Minor Road.

The ponds were stocked with about 2,000 catfish about one month ago and state wildlife services added more about one week ago, said Glen Wampler, Natural Resources and Enforcment Branch administrator.

"The catfish range began at 10 inches and bigger fish may weigh up to four or five pounds," Wampler said.

Children could also participate in age-group competitions for the largest and smallest fish and heaviest six-fish catch. Only catfish, bass, sunfish and crappie were measured. Ribbons and fishing gear were awarded to the top-three finishers in each category, as well as sportsmanship awards.

"We're going to have 15 winners (in the competition), but we're going to have 200 kids who caught fish," Wampler said.

About 30 volunteers worked the derby, which originally began about 25 years ago, Conklin said.
Volunteers ranged from Soldiers assigned to Sportsmen Services, who are on special duty, to Marines from the Field Artillery Detachment to volunteers from local fishing clubs and organizations and youths and retirees. The volunteers' jobs included judging, measuring and weighing fish.

Biologist Ryan Ryswyk and Fisheries technician John Perry, Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation in Medicine Park, manned an aquatic education aquarium, which displayed some of the indigenous fish of Southwest Oklahoma. The tank held largemouth bass, a variety of sunfish, spotted gar, carp, fresh-water drum, channel catfish and a common snapping turtle.

"Most of the children are mesmerized by the fish. They just like looking at them," Ryswyk said. "I found myself asking them if they know the names, and then coached them through it."

Tom Kelly, Fort Sill deputy garrison commander, strolled the grounds greeting families and volunteers.

"I'm seeing a lot of smiles this morning," he said. "We've been running this (derby) for a long time, it brings families together and allows them to relax and decompress."

Archie Williams, Lawton-Fort Sill Bass Club, and several members of the club provided clinics on knot-tying and casting. Not only for children, but for adults who also wanted to learn. They also repaired rods and reels.

"The main things are sportsmanship and safety," Williams said. "We're teaching them how to cast safely so they don't hook anybody."

U.S. Army Fires Center of Excellence and Fort Sill Commanding General, Maj. Gen. David Halverson presented the awards to the children. He thanked the volunteers and sponsors, who made the event possible and spoke about family.

"You see a lot of grandparents, mothers and fathers and their kids sharing time to do the right thing and that's what's most important about this event," Halverson said.

Page last updated Fri July 22nd, 2011 at 12:16