WINTON - The Northwoods Kids Fishing Derby at Veterans on the Lake Resort last weekend not only included dozens of area youth trying their luck fishing for prizes off the piers, it also included …
WINTON - The Northwoods Kids Fishing Derby at Veterans on the Lake Resort last weekend not only included dozens of area youth trying their luck fishing for prizes off the piers, it also included knot-tying lessons, lure-casting lessons, aquatic invasive species exploration, and even an opportunity to learn about a traditional Japanese art form.
What organizers hope will be an annual start to summer event was sponsored by the Ely Chamber of Commerce and hosted at the military veterans family facility on Fall Lake. First developed in 2019 by the Chamber’s Events Coordinator Bureau, city of Ely, Merchant Committee, Incredible Ely, and Ely Area Tourism Bureau, the event was postponed a couple of years because of COVID-19.
“We were fortunate to have some great sponsors,” said Eva Sebesta, executive director for the Ely Chamber of Commerce.
The Ely-Winton Rod and Gun Club was a “Trophy” sponsor and their contribution included a refund of each kid’s registration fee, cash prizes for the fishing component, plus their contribution covered the cost of the t-shirts for all youth and volunteers, plus bandanas for the youth.
In addition, Conservationists with Common Sense (CWCS) and Friends of the Boundary Waters were “Deep Diver” sponsors at $1000 each. Additional sponsors included the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources (DNR) with contributions of new rods and reels through the Fishing in the Neighborhood (FiN) program and water education through Project WET. Area invasive species groups provided education opportunities, too.
The seed money for this event originated from the Event Coordinator Bureau, which was comprised of the Ely Chamber of Commerce, city of Ely, Ely Area Tourism Bureau, and Incredible Ely.
“We need to mention all the hardworking volunteers who donated their time and expertise on Saturday. We had over 20 volunteers who worked directly with youth at all the stations. We would also like to thank Veterans on the Lake Resort staff and their board of directors for allowing us to hold the event at their location,” Sebesta added.
More than 30 youth, ages 6 to 14, took advantage of the opportunity to work with fishing experts, veterans, wildlife biologists and artists as they rotated through four stations and did a little fishing during the all-day derby.
“We worked with the DNR to participate in the water education part,” Sebesta said. “We were also involved with their ‘Fishing in the Neighborhood’ program. Soturi Tackle, a veteran-owned Minnesota company, helped teach participants everything from how to cast and reel in a fish to bait hooks and tie fishing knots.”
Fishing rods and reels were donated, so each participant went home with a new rod and reel, a T-shirt, and a bag full fishing items.
And in a surprise announcement on Saturday morning, Sebesta said the Ely-Winton Rod and Gun Club refunded the entry fee for each participant.
Prizes were awarded for the most fish caught and the largest and smallest fish.
At the art station, kids learned the traditional Japanese art called Gyotaku. According to Ellen Cashman, the chamber’s event coordinator, the art practice dates back to the mid-1800s, when fishermen used the technique of applying sumi ink to one side of a freshly caught fish before rubbing it on rice paper to create an image of the fish as a way to record their catch.
“The method has now become an art form,” she said.
Ely-Bloomenson Community Hospital provided a first aid station and the White Iron Chain of Lakes Association presented information on aquatic invasive species.
The chamber and city of Ely also partnered with Veterans on the Lake, Project WET (Water Education Today), to make the derby possible. Other sponsors included Conservationists with Common Sense, and Friends of the Boundary Waters.
The Ely Chamber of Commerce is already making plans for the 2023 Fishing Derby. “The event will expand to accommodate more youth,” Cashman said.
Watch for the official date release and details in October.
“This is a valuable opportunity for our youth to get connected with the outdoors, learn safe fishing techniques and have a lot of fun,” she said.
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