The Collingwood Optimist Club’s kids' fishing derby holds a special place in Rick Baldry's heart.
The organizer of the annual event has seen children who attended 37 years ago when the event first started, return now to help out with kids of their own in tow.
The 35th-annual derby will take place on Saturday, June 24 at the Collingwood Harbour. Baldry has served as chair of the derby for 37 years, however, the event was placed on hold for two years during COVID-19. He is also president of the Georgian Triangle Anglers’ Association.
“When you go down and see these kids...when they come running up after they’ve caught a fish – they have a smile on their face that would light up a church. That smile is worth a thousand words,” said Baldry.
“Over the years, I’ve seen enough to fill the whole back section of a library.”
Children who attend the derby will be split into three age groups: up to five years old, from six to 10, and 11 to 14 years old. A casting contest will also take place as part of this year’s festivities.
No prior experience is necessary, and there will be experienced anglers on-site to help any child who needs assistance. Kids can bring their own fishing rods or, if they don’t have one, there will be some available at no charge.
Trophies and awards will be handed out for the biggest catches, measured by length.
“Most of the fish won’t weigh enough to move the scales,” Baldry said with a laugh. “We’ve had some real dandies in previous years, like beautiful bass, monster carp and trout.”
Baldry says angling is a special skill for kids to learn, that encourages independence and builds a relationship with nature.
“When you learn to fish, you learn to eat,” he said.
There will be water and free hot dogs available at the derby for the kids, and adults are asked to make a small donation. All children must be accompanied by an adult. Personal flotation devices are required.
Registration will take place at the parking lot near the municipal launch site starting at 8 a.m. on June 24, and will run until 12 p.m.