Fishing catches on with kids

HUBBARD – For Gracie Teal of Brookfield, it was not only her first catch of the day, but the first catch of her life. Teal, 4, nabbed a 6-inch bluegill with her pink Barbie fishing pole during the children’s fishing derby at the Hubbard Conservation Club.

She proudly pointed out the various stickers that adorned the reel, but admitted she doesn’t eat the fish herself.

“I love to get fishes because I like to get them for my mama and papa and family,” she said with a grin.

Sponsored by the Hubbard Conservation Club in cooperation with the Ohio Department of Natural Resources Division of Wildlife, the free derby is held each year for local youths 15 and younger.

Hubbard Conservation Club president Fred Arnaut said the event is always held rain or shine.

“This isn’t bad weather,” he said with an eye to a cloudy sky on Saturday. “If it lightnings, we pull them off the lake. It’s not bad if it’s a little bit of rain.”

The importance, he said, is “to give kids an opportunity to learn about fishing and the outdoors, and promote conservation and our club and what we do.”

Catfish and bass were only permitted as a catch-and-release, but other fish, such as trout, could be kept. Arnaut said the club has to keep its fish population up, especially for catfish tournaments. A large amount of trout were released into the lake a week before the derby so the kids would have the opportunity to catch something.

“We hope we can introduce them to fishing so they find it is a wonderful thing to do as a sport and that the outdoors is something you can enjoy and get you outside,” he said.

Prizes were awarded throughout the day, as well as an auction to help fund next year’s derby. The derby has been held for more than 50 years.

“We have folks here today that fished in this a long time ago and now they’re bringing their kids … that’s what we’re striving for,” he said.

Al and Sharon Chiaberta have been attending the derby with their family for 11 years. Sharon Chiaberta said it’s an event they never miss.

“It’s a neat thing for the kids. It’s a good opportunity for the family to get together with the kids. It’s a family function, it really is,” she said.

Her granddaughter, Angelina Ridel-Yanniello, 4, was getting up close and personal with a worm before it was placed on a hook. She wasn’t squeamish one bit.

“Worms are not disgusting. They tickle sometimes,” she said.

Ridel-Yanniello even caught a fish – but she said her grandma let it go because it was a baby.

“And she’ll never let me forget it,” Sharon Chiaberta laughed.

Austin Kelly, 10, of New Castle, caught an 11 1/2-inch trout, while William Cupan, 12, of McDonald, reeled in a 10-inch trout.

Cupan said he didn’t know if he’d cook it that night, but was going to try to catch as many fish as he could. Last year he caught four.

“It’s the fun of it, catching things,” he said.

Family friend Mike Redmond, 42, also of McDonald, said it was his second year attending the Hubbard derby, although he’s been fishing since he was Cupan’s age.

He said he likes the event because it gives him a chance to spend time with the kids and enjoy nature.

Hubbard Conservation Club member Jim Kralik said the biggest fish caught are usually catfish, and Arnaut said the record catch was more than 28 inches long.

“We keep putting them back in and they keep getting bigger and bigger. I think in Mosquito Lake, they’ve gotten some 50 pounds,” Kralik said.