Fort Leonard Wood community members line the banks of the Training Area 228 pond during the Kid's Catfishing Derby on Saturday. Out of the 130 children who participated in the event, 11 were fishing for the first time.
Fort Leonard Wood community members line the banks of the Training Area 228 pond during the Kid's Catfishing Derby on Saturday. Out of the 130 children who participated in the event, 11 were fishing for the first time. (Photo Credit: Photo by Amanda Sullivan, Fort Leonard Wood Public Affairs Office) VIEW ORIGINAL

FORT LEONARD WOOD, Mo. — It was shoulder-to-shoulder fishing on Saturday, when Fort Leonard Wood held its annual Kid’s Catfishing Derby at the Training Area 228 pond.

The derby — organized by the Directorate of Public Works’ Natural Resources Branch — gave youth anglers, ages 15 and under, the opportunity to enjoy the outdoors while testing their angling prowess.

John Brant, a fisheries biologist with the DPW Natural Resources Branch, called the event “a great success.”

“We had 130 youth attend, from ages one to 15, and 11 anglers were fishing for their first time,” he said.

Brant attributed the success to the attendees and the multiple organizations that helped coordinate the event.

In addition to DPW, Brant said many agencies came together to make the event possible.

The Outdoor Adventure Center assisted in advertising and provided grilled hotdogs and drinks to participants; the Better Opportunities for Single Soldiers program provided volunteers; and the Directorate of Emergency Services provided game warden participation and safety.

Jason Ploss, a conservation law enforcement officer with DES, who also attended the event, said it was important to get children outside and connecting with nature.

“Even though you may not believe it is a big deal to take the kids to a fishing derby, the reality is that it can instill passion and appreciation for wildlife that carries into adulthood,” Ploss said. “Teaching the concept of catch and release, or only taking home what you will eat, will help them understand the importance of ensuring a healthy fish population for future generations.”

Ploss said getting children outside and fishing gives them more than just an understanding of wildlife.

“It never gets old to see the expression on a child’s face when they hook a fish, it builds confidence within them and at that moment, you know they are hooked for life,” he said.