TU volunteers help kids create special memories in Utah

Thumbs up for this volunteer who helped this first-time angler catch her first fish.

By Chad Utley

St. George, Utah — The only thing better than catching fish is helping kids catch fish; particularly when it is their first fish.

 The Southern Utah Anglers Chapter of Trout Unlimited recently held their annual Kid’s Fishing Derby and a day on the water for kids with special needs.

There were plenty of smiles, shouts of joy and outright refusal to touch “icky” fish.

There were, however, some touching moments.

Like the couple who picked up nieces and nephews and delivered them to the pond for some fishing. The children have not been able to enjoy outdoor activities much lately because their mother has been confined in bed for a year with a severe illness.

The sheer joy on their faces of catching fish and just being outside touched everyone involved.

A number of non-fishing parents brought their children and enjoyed the help of the volunteers.

One family brought a severely disabled son. We all smiled as he caught the first fish of his life.

"Our 17th annual derby was a tremendous success. It was well attended by local children. The fish were big and plentiful. The weather was perfect. We had a ton of volunteers and our community partners were a key to the success,” said Randy Cronk, president of the Southern Utah Anglers Trout Unlimited Chapter. “Special thanks to the Utah Division of Wildlife Resources for supplying the fish and especially the big fish, which made the event special."

There is a lot of community support to make this event possible.  The Utah Division of Wildlife stocks the ponds, provides some of the rods and teaches classes throughout the day. 

See a video of the Kid's Fishing Derby here.

Many volunteers spent their Saturday helping rig rods, bait hooks and unhook fish.  One 15-year-old volunteer remarked how much fun he had teaching moms and dads how to fish so they in turn could help their children fish. 

The City of St. George is also an integral partner.  The city provides a clean and safe environment at the ponds and donates time and prizes.  Other local groups and stores donate money and prizes to the event. 

It is the goal of everyone that children can learn to love fishing and have a quality experience.  We’re hopeful that a lot of children that don’t otherwise have the experience to get out and fish will have that opportunity here close to home.

This year’s derby was especially unique as the DWR stocked 800 brood stock trout in the pounds most weighing between 4-7 pounds.  Some of these children may have caught a once-in-a-lifetime trout.

The event is followed up by a special needs fishing derby the following week.  Local schools bus special needs students to the ponds and volunteers help them catch some fish.  For many of the volunteers this is their favorite time.  Many of the expressions of joy from these children are heart felt and unrestrained.  To say that it is touching is an understatement.

Chad Utley is the vice president of the Southern Utah Anglers Trout Unlimited chapter. He lives in St. George.


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