Popular derby hooks young anglers, makes lasting memories
“Fishies, fishies, eat the worm,” 3-year-old Kaden Parker squealed as he dropped his Scoobie Doo fishing pole into the dusky waters of Mill Pond.
Minutes later, Kaden felt a tug on the line. He began a rhythmic, fish-stunning chant, “fishies, fishies, fishies.” Then, like a boy possessed, Kaden reeled in his wriggling, shining prize.
Memories of a lifetime were in the making all over Mill Pond Park on Saturday morning. Fifteen feet from Kaden, 7-year-old Zachary Oster of Renton grinned from ear to ear, reveling in the first catch of his life – five rainbow trout. One would go to his dad, another to his grandpa, the boy said. The rest were skillet bound.
Grandpa Dan Trogdon was impressed.
“I mean, this is the first time he’s ever fished, and he got that many at one time,” Trogdon said.
After catching their fish – five was the limit – the young anglers had them measured. The next stop was the table where Gil Arellano and Richard Omlid, members of the Green River Steelhead Trout Club, waited to gut and clean the fish.
“I’m getting a lesson here from the guy next to me,” said Arellano, his hands full of slime and guts, with a respectful nod to Omlid. “Normally I just slice them, and he cleans ’em out.”
Arellano couldn’t resist needling Domenica Higgins, 13, as she waited with her five catches.
“She bought one at Albertson’s,” Arellano joked.
“No I didn’t!,” Higgins shot back. “I caught it with power bait! I had to kiss all my fish because I lost a bet. They said I couldn’t kiss a fish, so I did it!”
The Green River Steelhead Trout Club started the derby 46 years ago at Five Mile Lake in Federal Way. Over time it moved from Kent to Puyallup.
“We moved it to Auburn because the City of Auburn was so good to us, and Auburn Sports Marina is one of our biggest sponsors over here,” said club member Greg Guerrero. “They have given us tackle to give away to the kids, fishing poles, assorted prizes, and donated 10 tagged fish out in the pond worth $25 apiece.”
The whole point, Guerrero said, is for the kids to have fun.
“We want to get the kids involved in something to keep them out of trouble and keep their interest going in a direction that is going be positive. And it’s just so much fun to see the excitement of them catching a fish, a nice big fish. There was a little girl who came up here just a few minutes ago and she said, ‘I caught the monster fish!’ She was totally excited. Kids say all kinds of stuff. One girl said she slept with her fish. She had fun.”
“My grandfather took me fishing in Montana when I was 3 years old,” said club member Dan Estell “I caught a bugle-mouthed bass, which is a large-scale sucker, and I was hooked. Some of these kids are messed up on fishing for life. It’s going to happen.”
The derby is one of several events the Green River Steelhead Trout Club puts on each year. On May 26, the club sponsored a handicapped fishing derby at Mill Pond and the State Department of Fish and Game planted 1,200 fish there.
For the Kids Fishing Derby, the state planted an additional 1,200 fish and club members purchased 800 from a privately-owned hatchery in Darington. In June, the club will hold its Senior Fishing Derby.
But on Saturday, the result was hundreds of happy kids, parents and grandparents.
“We got here at 8 a.m., and it was already packed,” said Kaden’s father, Russell Parker. “People were here at 6 a.m. and the derby didn’t start until 8:30.”
Parker added that the derby was all his son could talk about in the days leading up to it.
“Every time I came in the door he said, ‘Are we going fishing? Are we going fishing?’”
Maria Fabyamchuk brought all of her five children to Mill Pond.
“Maybe we were here 20 minutes, and she catch one fish,” Fabyamchuk said of her 5-year-old daughter, Maria. “But it’s not about the fish – it’s about kids and about fun.”