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July 14. 2013 9:19PM

Hooked

Nashua's Horse Pond Fishing Derby hooks young anglers


Maggie Nelson, 7, of Nashua, gets some help from her mom unhooking her first catch of the day at the fishing derby in Nashua. (BARBARA TAORMINA PHOTO)

The starting signal for Nashua's 2013 Horse Pond Fishing Derby rang out at 9 a.m. Saturday morning and by 9:03, kids lining the bank of the small pond were reeling in fish.

The annual derby for 5- to 12-year-olds — sponsored by the Horse Pond Fish & Game Club, with some help from the U.S. Fish Hatchery, Nashua Recreation Dept. and the Nashua Police Athletic Association — draws families from in and around Nashua and gives kids a chance to experience one of the favorite activities of New Hampshire sportsmen.

"Our whole purpose is to share our sport with young people," said Ray Smith, president of Horse Pond Fish & Game, who called the derby a real community event.

Although the catch-and-release derby has been growing each year, Smith credits Saturday's break in the stifling heat for bringing out a record 104 participants. Even Nashua Mayor Donnalee Lozeau stopped by to chat with the crowd of kids and parents.

A lot of the kids who participated were experienced anglers who had been to earlier derbies. James Ong, 10, from Nashua, who said he has been fishing for about eight years, landed a small sunfish almost as soon as his line touched the water.

Emma Hall-Lavoie, of Nashua, who was less than 24 hours shy of her ninth birthday, was fishing in her third Horse Pond Derby.

"I like fishing because it's relaxing," said Hall-Lavoie, who added that last year she caught some sun fish and, possibly, a bass.

Smith said the club awards prizes in different categories such as largest fish, which this year was a 2-pound bass, and the most fish caught. But no one leaves the derby — now in its eighth year — without a prize.

"This year, we gave away 91 gifts of games, small tackle boxes, lures and artificial worms," said Smith. The first 75 kids who register for the derby also took home an "I'm hooked on fishing" T-shirt.

And everyone who fished during the two-hour contest also received a certificate and an invitation to a post-derby cookout.

Smith said he's been surprised and pleased with the number of girls who turn out to fish and added the club also helps out Girl Scouts who are working on earning a fishing badge.

"Kids love the fact that they're outdoors and they love bringing up their fish and having them weighed," said Smith, who added that for a lot of the kids it's also a learning experience about the types of different fish.

PlayStation, Wii and Nintendo all make fishing video games, but in New Hampshire nothing comes close to the real thing.

"I like that the derby shows that not all kids want to stay home and play video games all the time," said Smith.

btaormina@newstote.com


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