SIKESTON - Young anglers will soon get the chance to show their stuff with the annual Kids' Fishing Derby less than a month away.
Sponsored by the Sikeston Parks and Recreation Division, the derby is scheduled from 8 a.m. until noon May 17 at the Recreation Complex Lake. In the event that it rains that morning, the derby will be held from 1-5 p.m.
Jiggs Moore, parks director, recalled that during his first two years on the job, he kept the event in April, but soon decided to move it to May. "In April the weather is just too iffy."
Youthful fishermen missed their chance to compete last year due to the weather even with the later date. "It rained two days before and flooded the banks," said Moore. "So we had to cancel it - and that's the first time that's happened."
The event is open to all children age 15 and under. There is a $1 per-child fee, and each child is limited to one pole. Competitors must have their own fishing pole and bait.
Small children must be accompanied by a parent or guardian. Small children may be assisted by an adult, otherwise children are to do their own fishing - the event is not for adults.
Children will compete for prizes in two age categories: 10 and under, and 11-15. Prizes will be awarded for the biggest fish caught, and the highest total weight with a five-fish limit. "And you can't win twice," said Moore. "If you have the biggest fish, someone else wins the most pounds, so there's always four different winners."
Attendance prizes will also be given away in the morning.
Now a Sikeston tradition, the event goes back to the early or mid-1980s.
"This fishing derby actually started out in the old swimming pool," Moore recalled. "Randy Warner, the city's first park director, came up with the idea and to hold it in the old Jaycee swimming pool. So it evolved from that."
The event was scheduled to take place just before the pool was closed for the season. "Chlorine burns off real fast," said Moore. While the water was clear at the beginning of the event and the fish could be clearly seen, "the longer they were in, the greener it got."
Moore recalled seeing a picture recently of one of the events held at the pool. "People were lined around the deep end elbow-to-elbow with fishing poles."
The year after the pool was closed down, the event was moved to the recreation complex, Moore recalled. Shirley Rudd, who was the administrative assistant to the city's public works director at the time, took over Warner's duties when he left, Moore said.
At that time, Rudd coordinated the event with the Conservation Department, and moved the derby's date to April.
"The Middle School would bus kids out here for a week and they would conduct marine biology experiments and talk about aquatic topics related to the pond. On the last day, on Friday, they would let the kids fish," Moore recalled. "Then on Saturday, she would have the fishing derby out there."
As it was coordinated with an educational program, the Conservation Department stocked the lake. "They put hybrid bluegill in that were supposed to be very catchable," said Moore.
Budget cuts soon put an end to the program, and the parks department now stocks the lake by buying catfish from private vendors.
Moore said his department purchases 700 pounds of catfish, most of which are about a pound to a pound and a half. "A good keeping size," he said. "They'll usually put some bigger ones in there, too, in the two-pound range."
Additionally, he added, area residents often release their fishing trip catches from other places into the complex's lake. "It has a population year round," Moore said. "Also since we dredged the lake, we put some deep holes in it. The lake doesn't get fished out like it used to."
Moore said a three-pound large-mouth bass was caught in the lake last week.
For more information on the fishing derby call Moore at 471-6070.