CLARKS SUMMIT — The first catfish 6-year-old Timmy Staples, of Newton Twp., caught was 16 inches long. Then, he caught one that was 16 3/4 inches, bumping him from third to second place in Countryside Community Church’s 19th annual fishing derby. Timmy eventually climbed up to first place in his age group (6-8 years) when he reeled in a fish a little over 18 inches.
“It was really hard,” Timmy said about reeling in all of the big fish.
The derby was held at the pond of Abington Heights Middle School on a cloudy but cool Saturday, June 23.
The fish caught at the derby were measured with a yardstick by church members who volunteered at the derby. Volunteers included Phyllis Terwilliger, Brian Rickaby, Pete LaCoe and John Goegl, who wore a rain prevention hat (actually a Gerrity’s bag). The results, which include the names of children and lengths of fish they caught, were recorded by church member Barbara Gallagher, who has been volunteering at the event for three years. She remembers writing the results on paper and replacing the paper as the children caught bigger fish. Gallagher has taken the route of writing them on an eraser board, making it easier to change the results.
“I’m privileged to be a part of it,” she said. “It’s a wonderful family experience.”
Some volunteers were once competitors themselves. Norah Rickaby, who has been fishing in the derby previously, was one of the face painters this year and painted decorations on kids’ cheeks or hands for the first time.
“It’s fun,” Rickaby said.
Caleb Molitoris, who also used to fish when he was a kid, has been in charge of the prize tent for four years. Kids are given fun prizes, whether or not they catch a fish.
“The hardest part is making sure every kid is happy with their gift,” he said.
Caleb’s father Ken Molitoris has chaired the fishing derby for seven years.
“I love chairing it,” he said. “The workers are fantastic. I love being with the kids. We have 105 kids and all of them went home with a gift.”
But the fishing derby wouldn’t exist without Bruce Holden, who came up with the idea 19 years ago.
“The kids love it,” Holden said. “They love to have their names drawn so they could win a prize.”
Holden helped this year by serving root beer. People also enjoy the derby each year because of the free hot dogs, cookies, and drinks.
Holden also has an award named for him each year. It’s called the Brucci Bass Award and is given to the child who catches the biggest bass. This year, 13-year-old Evan Zemalkowski was the recipient of this award for catching an 18 1/2” bass. He also came in first place in his age group (13 and up).
“I feel great,” Zemalkowski said.