Published June 04, 2009, 12:54 AM

Dickinson’s 15th annual Kids Fishing Derby set for Saturday

An event that traces its origins to the classrooms and gymnasiums of Dickinson celebrates its 15th year at the Dickinson Dike this weekend.

By: John Odermann, The Dickinson Press

An event that traces its origins to the classrooms and gymnasiums of Dickinson celebrates its 15th year at the Dickinson Dike this weekend.

Saturday marks the 15th annual Kids Fishing Derby, which is held every year in cooperation between the Bureau of Land Management, the Southwest Anglers and the U.S. Forest Service.

Curt Decker, minerals manager for the U.S. Forest Service and co-organizer of the event, said the goal has always been to get parents and guardians out for a morning of fishing with their kids.

“The big thing was to get the children and the grown-ups together for a couple hours of quality time and if they caught something, fine, if not, then that’s fine too,” Decker said. “Make a fun little morning of it.”

The derby started out as an outdoors awareness day put on each year by the BLM and the Forest Service where grade-school students could learn about camping, fishing, trapping and other outdoors activities.

After a couple of years indoors, Decker said organizers got to thinking, instead of keeping the kids in the classroom, why not set up a fishing tournament or derby, and the Kids Fishing Derby at the Dickinson Dike was born.

Since then, the event has grown from a handful of kids in the first couple years to over 350 last year.

“Every year it’s getting bigger,” co-organizer and land law examiner for the BLM, Connie Kolling said. “It’s all ages, from little infants whose parents are carrying them to 12-year-olds.”

Children are asked to bring their own bait and fishing poles, but for those children whose parents don’t have fishing equipment, the North Dakota Game and Fish Department, the BLM and the Forest Service have a limited supply of rods and reels that those who show up without any can use, Kolling said.

Kolling said they are there to serve in a facilitator role for the families.

“We’re there to assist the kids, assist the parents. We want to see the parents out there with their kids because it is a family thing,” Kolling said “We’re available to help them all out. You’re passing worms, untangling lines, weighing fish. “

Helping provide the opportunity to give children an opportunity to fish for the first time or just spend a morning with their family is gratifying, Kolling said.

“It’s just an awesome feeling because there are some kids that have never experienced this, or even caught a fish,” Kolling said. “You don’t have to catch a fish, it’s just being out there and spending some quality time with your friends and your family.”

Fishing is open to children ages 12 and under and runs from 8:30 a.m. to noon, with a weigh-in and free meal following.

Following the weigh-in, trophies will be given to the child who catches the largest fish in four different age groups and door prizes will be given throughout the day.

Decker said the derby is all about exposing children to something they might otherwise not find themselves exposed to.

“It’s just to introduce the children to something outdoorsy and get them out away from the TV and all that stuff,” Decker said. “Hopefully we can get them hooked on fishing and go from there.”