The Parks and Recreation of Meridian Township hosted the annual Ice Fishing Derby for children on Saturday, Feb. 15.
The event was held at the Central Park South Pond from 9 a.m.-noon and was open to children ages 5 through 16.
“The idea is to just get people out participating in an outdoor sport, especially in the winter time,” said Nick Sanchez, Meridian Township’s assistant park naturalist. “We’re trying to get kids involved with fishing, especially in the winter, and it’s a big goal of ours.”
“Every year, the Meridian Township Parks and Recreation puts on two of these,” said volunteer Kelly Colflesh. “This one is also a free-fishing weekend for the state of Michigan. Anybody can fish without a license on Saturday and Sunday. We also have a fishing derby in June. We provide everything people need for fishing, show them how it’s done and give them some help.”
Park Commissioner Mark Stephens said, “We’re just trying to get people out on the ice and seeing what it’s like, trying to get kids to learn a little about stewardship and going out and using our resources. This is the third or fourth year for the derby. As a park commissioner, I want to see as much use of our parks as possible.”
“This a great amount of attendance compared to the past and it’s cold,” Stephens said.
Temperatures were below 15 degrees, but a number of people still came out.
“This is just my second time ice fishing,” Tyler Coffey, a 10-year-old Cub Scout said. “I like fishing a lot. Anytime I get a chance to go ice fishing, I do it.”
Coffey was excited by his first catch of the day.
“I think I caught the smallest fish,” Coffey said. “We couldn’t find a ruler but it was about five inches.”
Coffey was just one of many young fishers out on the ice.
“Today I brought my 4-year-old son out for his first time ice fishing,” Randy Howard, the son of a young ice fisher, said. “I used to be big into fishing when I was younger, but mostly just don’t have the time for it anymore.”
Ryan Walker also ventured into ice fishing with his son.
“This is our first time ice fishing since I was been 12 years old,” Walker said. “We fish all summer long and he’s been really asking me to go ice fishing.”
Fishing in the ponds is relatively new, according to Stephens.
“We’ve never been able to fish the ponds,” Stephens said. “Just recently we’ve been stocking the ponds so people can get out and fish. This pond has some natural fish in it and that’s what we’re fishing for. Basically it’s panfish, bluegill, crappie, pumpkinseeds. There are some pike in here and there’s also some bass. We have the local school groups getting out and fishing and knowing that our resources are right here in our backyard.”