By COLLEEN MCCARTHY
Kids of all ages came out to the Noxubee Wildlife Refuge on a hot Saturday morning for a fishing derby competition.
The temperatures were already nearing the 90s when the derby kicked off at 8 a.m. Approximately 50 children competed in groups of ages 4-9 and 10-15. They competed to get the heaviest individual fish and the heaviest total of five fish. They had two hours to catch the biggest fish in the ponds. Prizes in each category and age group included trophies and shopping gift cards.
All of the young contestants received a grab bag of fishing supplies and tickets for a door prize from Walmart when they registered for the competition. The refuge provided rods and reels to children who did not have their own.
The kids fished in the two fishing derby ponds on the refuge that are full of catfish ranging in size from a few inches to as big as 20 pounds. The ponds are used specifically for competitions like the youth derby.
Many of the children had never fished before, but they turned into experienced fishermen with a little help from some moms and dads. Even the youngest fishermen proudly showed off a line full of fish by the end of the day.
The derby has been a tradition at the refuge for the last nine years. The event helps kick off the Recreational Boating and Fishing Foundationâ€™s National Fishing Week. The weeklong celebration is promoted at national parks and refuges all over the country. The event helps spark an interest in fishing in the youth and also provides an opportunity for families to get out and enjoy nature together.
Noxubee Wildlife Refuge has several other events planned for the summer months. On June 18, it will host the Craig Pond Trail Walk with Ray Iglay. The refuge will also celebrate Canoe Day on July 2 where the public can come out and explore Bluff Lake with canoes and life vests provided by the park. Nature lovers can participate in a butterfly walk on July 16. Jim and Dianne Patterson will lead the walk around Morgan Hill to spot and identify various species of butterflies. All the events are open and free to the public.