If you haven’t already taken advantage of the weather this summer to go fishing with your kids, the eighth bi-annual Burlington’s Kids Fishing Derby is the perfect opportunity before the season is over. On Saturday, Sept. 14, the fishing derby will be taking place at Sylvan Lake in Burlington Township from 8 a.m. to roughly noon.
The event is sponsored by both Burlington City and Burlington Township in partnership with Big “D” Valley Bassmasters, one of the largest fishing clubs in New Jersey. Jim Thompson is a representative of the club who plays a big part in organizing the event.
He has always seen the derby as an opportunity to pass on his own love for the sport of fishing to a new generation and give young people an excuse to enjoy the great outdoors.
“The goal is to get kids involved in the outdoors, get them off of playing on iPads and sitting in front of the TV and show them there are a lot of other positive things they can do. They learn about nature and fishing and it all evolves from there,” said Thompson.
When kids come to the derby and fish for the first time, it can be an extra special moment not only for them, but for their parents. Thompson recalls hearing from a father who attended last year’s derby with his daughters. Before the event, they had never been fishing together, and now it has become a regular family activity for them.
“That’s what we want, not just for the kids, we want the parents to get outdoors too,” said Thompson. “That’s what it’s all about.”
The target for the derby is kids age 15 and under. Everyone who registers must be accompanied by an adult. For anyone without equipment of their own to bring, there will be fishing poles and tackle available on a first-come, first-served basis.
Registration is free and will run from 7:30 a.m. to 9 a.m. Those who will require a pole and tackle are encouraged to show up early. Fishing will officially begin at 8 a.m.
First-, second- and third-place prizes will be awarded in two age groups for the biggest and the most fish caught during the derby. Prize winners will go home with a gift card to Dick’s Sporting Goods.
Every child who is registered will also receive a raffle ticket for another chance at winning a prize during a drawing at the end of the day. Raffle prizes include outdoor equipment like tents, badminton sets, footballs, frisbees and basketballs.
Sylvan Lake is home to a wide variety of fish and features plenty of shoreline to cast off of. Young fishers will have a chance at reeling in bass, trout, sunfish and catfish. According to Thompson, it is rare that a child leaves the derby without catching at least something.
The last derby was held in June and about 88 children participated. By the end of the day, that group ended up reeling in an impressive 494 fish.
“Some kids caught over 30 fish, it was crazy,” said Thompson.
Food sponsor JB Bakery will be providing donuts when people show up first thing in the morning and Legends Pizza will be providing pizza for lunch.
The local fire department and Endeavor EMS will be on hand to show off their trucks, join in the fun and will be be available just in case their services are needed should a hook end up catching a land dweller instead of a fish. According to Thompson, so far each derby has ended incident free.
For more information about the derby, call Thompson at (609) 458-8634 or Pete Green (609) 668-3308.