Fish stories: Young winners enjoy angling competition

Photo by Dave Gorgon

Photo by Dave Gorgon

Prize winners in the 22nd annual Taylor Rotary Fishing Derby gather with some of the sponsoring Rotarians. In the front row are Senior Division winner Erica Simpson (left), Elizabeth Bowdler, Jamie Dow, Junior Division winner Nickolas Hopper, Alyssa Williamson and Logan Heath. Behind them are Rotarians Larry Wright (left), Brad Peltier, club President Ed Sell, Jan Szabla and Geno Salomone.

TAYLOR — When he gets into third grade next year at St. Alfred Catholic School, Nickolas Hopper will be able to tell his friends about the fish that didn’t get away.

The 8-year-old resident nabbed a 4.57-pound carp last Sunday on his way to winning the Junior Division of the 2010 Taylor Rotary Fishing Derby held Sunday at Coan Lake in Taylor’s Heritage Park.

Hopper, whose main fishing experience came at his aunt’s house in Sturgis, wound up catching 7.25 pounds of fish to win the Junior Division of the 22nd annual children’s fishing competition. He called the experience “great.”

Hopper won a rod and reel, compliments of the Rotarians and Wal-Mart, and an actual alligator head skeleton donated by Elmer DePlanche, a former city resident who returns nearly every year from Lake Placid, Fla., to serve as a weigh master for the tournament. Joining DePlanche was professional fisherman and city employee John Carter.

The Junior Division was open to children ages 5 to 8. Alyssa Williamson caught 3.79 pounds of fish, putting her in second place. Logan Heath’s 0.87 pounds was good for third.

The Senior Division – for children 9 to 12 – had the closest finish in its 22-year history history. Erica Simpson caught 11 fish for a total of 0.91 pounds. It was the last bluegill she caught just minutes before the final siren sounded that nudged her ahead
of second-place Elizabeth Bowdler by just one onehundreth of a pound.

Jamie Dow was third with 0.21 pounds.

Simpson, who turns 10 on June 20 and will enterfifth grade at McDowell Elementary School in the fall, said the derby was “pretty exciting.” This was her third derby, although it was the first in which she went home with prizes.

Rotary President Ed Sell congratulated the winners, praised Dianne and Paul Battistone of the city’s Golf, Parks and Recreation Department for their organization and thanked parents for allowing the children to take part in the two-hour morning event.

Organizers moved up the Fishing Derby from July to June this year, hoping the early start – and the day’s mostly overcast skies – would mean more fish. But for the second straight year, the fish count was down from years past. Nearly 100 children participated.