A decade and a half later, a popular outdoor event is still proving to be the ‘reel’ deal in Wheatley.
The 15th annual Southwest Outdoors Club Kids’ Fishing Derby took place at the Wheatley Harbour Saturday, July 7, attracting more than 150 area youths and their elder family members for an ideal morning of seeking that one big catch. The local event was the first of its kind for youths in Ontario when initially launched in 2003 and continues to be one of the most successful in the region.
“A lot of people have been to a lot of kids’ fishing derbies and tell us this is the best one they’ve ever done,” noted Southwest Outdoors Club member Don Wigle, who volunteered his fish measuring services for this year’s four-hour event.
Usually, representatives of the Ministry of Natural Resource’s Outreach Program offer volunteers to assist with measuring and recording of each catch, but the group was unable to attend this year’s derby. Instead, SWOC members took on those roles this year.
Greeted by virtually perfect weather conditions, this year’s gathering of aspiring fishermen and women were reeling in more total catches than the event had been treated to in any of its previous 14 editions. Although the goby count was lower than usual, sheephead, catfish and carp were in high supply as well as one walleye measuring about 19 inches in length. The derby once again offered keeper plaques for the winner from each of four different age categories. This year’s winners were as follows:
• zero to three-year-olds — Noah Lamb (23.625” sheephead);
• four- to seven-year-olds — Tea Poison (20.25” sheephead);
• eight- to 12-year-olds — Jaxon Lamb (24.25” carp);
• 13- to 17-year-olds — Brandan Clements (17.75” sheephead).
All category winners had their names engraved on their plaques.
The biggest catch winners were not the only prize winners again this year. Each participant was permitted to select one free toy or item as collected from Leamington Canadian Tire or Wal-Mart by SWOC members before eight draws were made for free bicycles. There were two bike winners for each age category — one boy and one girl — with donations coming from the Seaton family of Windsor and the Leamington and District Agricultural Society. The bikes were purchased at a discounted rate from Tilbury Canadian Tire, which also offered free bicycle helmets.
All entries were also treated to a free hot dog lunch with water or juice and chips. Free coffee and donuts were made available courtesy of Tilbury Tim Hortons. Naples Pizza of Wheatley also supported the event, this year also attended by firefighters with the Wheatley station of the Chatham-Kent Fire Department in case of any emergencies.
“We raise money all year so we can offer this kind of thing for free,” explained SWOC president Dan Reive. “We just like to get the kids outside and see them doing something outdoors related.”
About 20 SWOC members volunteered to help this year’s Kids’ Fishing Derby, which offered free bait and loaner rods to any entries who did not bring their own.
Southwest Outdoors Club meetings take place on the second Tuesday of each month at the Wheatley Royal Canadian Legion starting at 7 p.m. The 15th annual Big Boyz Fishing Tournament begins Friday, July 27. Entry forms can be obtained by visiting the website www.swoc.ca.