Walter Widman arrived over an hour early. Bedecked in full rain gear, new hat and fishing vest, the 3-year-old clearly meant business. His mom and dad pulled a wagon piled high with folding chairs and assorted fishing tackle … and his 13-month-old sister, Mairi.
Inside the log hall, club volunteers were hurriedly laying out waivers, T-shirts, and trophies. In the corner, a father and son team tried to get the popcorn machine working properly and the smell of baking cornbread was coming from the kitchen. A rack of loaner rods was being carefully moved up from a basement storage room and worms were being put in small bags on a folding table just outside. The annual Concord Rod & Gun Club Kids Fishing Derby was all coming together.
On this bright, beautiful May morning, the dock and the grassy areas down by the dam were soon packed with parents and kids, all set up and waiting for the 10 a.m. “lines in” signal! Before heading to their spots, many wide-eyed youngsters stopped by the creaky picnic table that would later serve as the awards stage, staring at the rows of glittering trophies and new fishing rods.
Angiers Pond is the cornerstone of the 45+ acre club property and boasts a healthy population of sunfish, chain pickerel, and largemouth bass. While some of the more experienced kids had lures rigged up for the bass, this day was mostly about bobbers and worms and just being outside.
Soon after the start, it became clear that there was going to be more fishing than catching on this day, as the week’s cool temperatures had slowed the bite. For the next two hours, hooks were baited, lines were untangled and bobbers were watched. Many of the younger kids were soon doing more playing than fishing, but no one seemed to mind.
Every so often a shout would go up, as a colorful sunfish or long chain pickerel was reeled in. Sloshing buckets transported the fish to strategically placed measuring stations and all were quickly returned back to the pond.
At noon, the fishing ended and families were invited up the hill into the clubhouse for lunch. Prepared by a crew of club volunteers led by Ed and Cindy Rolfe, long tables ladened with trays of pulled pork, homemade mac and cheese, salad, cornbread, and, of course, hot dogs attracted over 150 hungry young anglers and their parents or grandparents.
An announcement was made as lunch wound down and all gathered outside in the sunshine to see the awards handed out. But, before the big awards were presented for the largest fish, the names of the 27 kids who successfully landed a fish were read out. Each proudly approached the table to applause and was presented a small golden trophy, with the event name engraved. Plaques and new fishing rods were then awarded for the biggest fish to the two boys and girls in the 3-8 and 9-14 age categories and a large trophy awarded to the overall winner.
While everyone who came was rewarded with a great lunch and T-shirt, you had to catch and register a fish to win a prize and more than a few parents were seen nodding in approval, regarding this “no participation prize” lesson in the importance of patience and perseverance.
A highlight of the morning was when 4-year-old Emmet Su proudly yelled out “that’s my sister”, when twin Kira was called up for her trophy. Each had caught a sunfish. Another was when 10-year-old Max Schonbrun landed a big sunfish off the dock. Upon registering his catch, he returned, baited his hook again, handed his rod to 6-year-old Cate Mauer and then spent the final 10 minutes of the derby helping her try to catch a fish.
In this fast-paced time of omnipresent screens, there was something wonderful about seeing families sitting outside by a Concord pond, watching bobbers and taking in the beauty of the day. The fact that the fishing was slow somehow made the event even more special.
Easily spotted in his yellow rain gear, 3-year-old Walter Widman and his mom Alanna took nearly the entire 2 hours to finally land a fish – an 8-inch crappie. Both were equally thrilled. Little Walter was last seen headed back toward the car, half asleep in his dad’s arms, firmly clutching his trophy. I suspect he will be back next year.
2023 final results: Largest fish: Girls 3-8: Cecilia Krupski (13.25 inch chain pickerel). Boys 3-8: Edison Fay (9.5-inch largemouth bass). Girls 9-14: Taylor Krepps (13.75-inch chain pickerel). Boys 9-14: Alexander Lapusapa (14.5-inch chain pickerel – overall winner).