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Sunday, April 10, 2011

Fishing Derby Hooks Families

Fishing Derby Hooks Families:
51st Annual Fairfield PAL event 
provides fun for all
(posted to 4/10)
By Mike Lauterborn
© 2011. All Rights Reserved.

Fairfield, CT – “Fish on!” was the repeated cry heard along the banks of the pond at Gould Manor Park on Holland Hill Road Saturday morning as child after child pulled scaly creatures from the murky waters.

The kids and their parents – some 250 to 300 people in all – were participating in the annual Fishing Derby sponsored by the Fairfield Police Athletic League. The free event has been conducted the second Saturday of April every year for the past 51 years. It was open to children ages 3 to 15.

“This is just a great opportunity to get kids out with their families to have some fun,” said Officer Scott Sudora, the event’s organizer since 1990. “This is all about community outreach and we get people from all over. To see kids’ faces when they reel in a fish is priceless. Hopefully no one gets hooked.”

Sudora said the pond is specially stocked for the event with 375 brook and rainbow trout, but added that there are also carp, bluegill sunnies and catfish available. The Westport Striped Bass Club, along with Jimmy O’s Bait and Tackle, supplies the bait, and prizes are offered in 13 categories, including biggest trout, biggest fish other than a trout and smallest fish other than a trout. Fishing poles serve as prizes and there is also a raffle conducted at the end of the event for nets, lures and bait so kids can fish on their own. Connecticut Dept. of Environmental Protection rules govern the derby, restricting the take to no more than five trout. “Catch and release” is generally promoted.

Retired Fairfield Police Captain Pat Carroll initiated the contest five decades ago and was on hand for the fun. “I was a sergeant in the Youth Bureau back then, and a very close friend and fisherman, Nick Fingelli, came to me and suggested we do something for the kids,” he said. “That was the beginning of the fishing contest. Nick was involved right up until he passed several years ago. It has always been held at Gould. We’ve been blessed with a great day today.”

Amid a long stretch of sports chairs, coffee cups, tackle boxes and containers of bait, Ron Pelletier Sr., from Shelton, baited hooks and reeled out lines. He had been a derby participant for the past five years and had with him his granddaughter Holly, nephew Alexander and other family. “It’s for the kids,” he said. “They have a great time and have a shot at some great prizes. We like to set up in the spot where they drop the fish in. They tend to hover near here and patrol the banks.”

Down the way, Larry Mansy of Fairfield was showing his daughter Sarah, 4, how to fish, while wife Nita looked on. “So far so good,” he reported. “I fish bass tournaments all the time. This is Sarah’s first contest. The fishies like live worms. Hopefully she’ll get a bite.”

Fairfielder Ben Faria, 13, who was participating for the third year, was lucky enough to snag a 19-inch carp, which weighed in around three pounds. “I used whole corn kernels threaded onto my hook,” he said, with regard to his strategy. “My friend’s brother taught me that. I’ve used the same in the past and it has always worked.”

Danielle Rossi, 10, of Oxford, employed a different approach that has paid off for her at past events. “I use Rainbow Power Bait usually which seems to work,” she said. “I won first place for biggest trout last year and the year before. Mostly you have to have a lot of patience. This is a fun way to spend some time with my dad. We’ve been doing this since I was four.”