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Great Outdoors: Youth Spring Fishing Derby in Lee a success

As the adage goes, “Give a man a fish, and you feed him for a day. Teach a man to fish, and you feed him for a lifetime.” I have wonderful memories of fishing both freshwater and saltwater with family and friends over the years. From fluke fishing on the Jersey shore to bass fishing at Disney World in Florida to ice fishing on Lake Champlain and even the lazy day casting of a line in the western branch of the Housatonic River with my children, the outdoor experiences we share last a lifetime.

While most kids today would rather stay indoors on a rainy day and play videogames, this was not the case on Sunday, May 5 at Lee Sportsmen’s Association (LSA). Over 20 youth, with their parents, grandparents, family and friends, participated in the annual Youth Spring Fishing Derby held at the quarry on LSA’s property. This is a special time once a year when LSA opens its fishing hole to the public.

Every spring, LSA receives about 250 to 300 trout through MassWildlife’s Trout Stocking Program, but this is a tiny fraction of the trout that are currently being released into waters across the state. According to MassWildlife, “Close to 500,000 brook, brown, rainbow, and tiger trout will be stocked this spring from MassWildlife’s five hatcheries located in Sandwich, Palmer, Belchertown, Sunderland, and Montague.”

Freshwater fishing is perfect for those who want to learn to fish, because it can be done from shore or on a boat, and no special tackle is required. The first step is to purchase a fishing license, which is required in Massachusetts for those over the age of 15. Fees vary depending upon age, residency and disability. All Massachusetts fishing licenses expire at the end of the calendar year. Fishing licenses can be purchased online (just search MassFishHunt) or in-person at license agent locations, such as retail stores and MassWildlife offices. In Berkshire County, the locations include Mill River General Store, the Walmarts in Pittsfield and North Adams and the Western District Office for the Division of Fisheries and Wildlife in Dalton.

Luckily, LSA’s Youth Spring Fishing Derby is only for children under 14 years old, so no fishing licenses are required for these young anglers.

“We’re glad to offer free programs like this for area youth,” says John Polastri, the former president and current secretary of LSA. “It’s really good to see this many kids out enjoying the outdoors, even in this weather, and not being cooped up inside letting their minds go to mush.”

It has rained for the past three Youth Spring Fishing Derbies held on LSA property, and this year was no exception. Despite the sprinkles, there were plenty of fish to be caught, smiles to be had and memories to be made.

The kids can catch as many fish as possible in the time allotted, but are only permitted to keep five fish each. Still, most of the younger anglers preferred to catch and release this past Sunday, only keeping the “really big ones” to see how they fared amongst the other anglers present. There were plenty of trout, sunnies, blue gills and even a few bass in that quarry to ensure that every kid caught something, regardless of age or ability. However, at the end of the two hours, there could only be one really big fish.

For the boys, there was a tie: Gabe Ranzoni and Ryder Froio tied with both having caught trout that weighed 15 oz. and were exactly 13 9/16” long.

For the girls, Reagan DuPont won with a trout that weighed 1 lb. 1 oz., which was also the overall winner for the day.

“It was really hard to reel it in,” DuPont said. “I almost lost it, and I just knew it was a really big one. It was really fun.” Top prize winners received new fishing poles, and everyone received bait and lures to use for their next fishing trip.

Massachusetts offers many beautiful lakes, reservoirs, ponds, streams, and rivers to fish and enjoy time out on the water. If you’re interested in learning more, please visit https://www.mass.gov/freshwater-fishing-information.

Stephanie DuPont is on the board of directors for the Lee Sportsmen’s Association and a columnist for the Berkshire Record. You can contact her at dupontfam5@gmail.com.

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