Steamboat Springs Miles away form the rumble of Ford Mustangs and the buzz of the Mainstreet Farmers Market, 85 children lined the banks of Walton Pond, the lilt of their chatter and the occasional shriek of delight rising over the still water.
At the Optimist Club of Steamboat Springs’ 30th annual fishing derby, the element of competition was only part of the children’s motivation to reel in as many fish as possible from the small body of water.
On a far bank, 8-year-old Lucas Sands already had caught eight fish, and with a few minutes remaining until the awards ceremony, he had just hooked No. 9. He reeled in quickly as the fish — which he and his dad said seemed quite large — fought hard. By the time Lucas got the fish near the bank, it had taken the lure and swam away.
As his father, Barry Sands, untangled his line, he told his son, “Not every fish you land on the hook’s going to come in. That’s just the way it is.”
Still, Lucas walked away with a shiny new fishing pole, the prize for catching the most fish of the day.
Overall, the children caught 43 fish from the pond, including rainbow trout, suckers, one pike and a crawdad.
The largest fish was a 16.5-inch sucker and the largest trout was 15.5 inches.
“I did have a lot of fun,” said Julian Bowman, who caught two fish Saturday. “It was my very first time doing this derby, and that was the first fish I caught of the season.”
The annual event started with a pancake breakfast before the fishing began. For 30 years, the Optimist Club of Steamboat Springs, a service organization supporting local youths, has put on the event with the help of several local sponsors to offer an opportunity for some family fun on the day before Father’s Day.
Around the pond, fathers and grandfathers helped bait lines and untangle them from the low-hanging trees while the children made friends with one another, matching in their blue Fishing Derby T-shirts.
Optimist Club member Paul Hands has helped organize the event for 20 years. He said he sees adults in town who used to participate in the derby when they were kids.
“It never rains during this event,” he said with a smile. “We have a great time, and the kids have a great time.”
For the first time in the event’s history, the Colorado Division of Parks and Wildlife sent three representatives to help measure the fish.
“That was extra special, having some help with the fishing aspect of it,” Hands said.
Julian's younger brother, Adrian, 8, said he almost caught one fish using power bait. He said he knew where to fish (in the cleaner water with less muck) and hoped that his strategy would pay off.
“I love fishing,” he said. “It’s kind of peaceful.”
Next to the Bowmans, the Gatcliffes and McMahons were enjoying some friendly family rivalry. Having lived in the Virgin Islands, Nathan Gatcliffe, 11, has won several deep-sea fishing tournaments with large mahi, tuna and even sharks. However, the trout in Walton Pond seemed to elude him.
But his younger sister, Isabella McMahon, 8, already had caught two fish.
“I just cast how I feel to,” Isabella explained about her strategy. She said the event was fun “just for catching fish, and I feel proud of myself for doing it.”
To reach Nicole Inglis, call 970-871-4204 or email ninglis@ExploreSteamboat.com