[dropcap color=”#888″ type=”square”]C[/dropcap]OLONIE — The 42nd annual Youth Fishing Derby will be held by the West Albany Rod and Gun Club on Saturday, June 4, near the boat launch at Colonie Town Park on Schermerhorn Road in Cohoes.
“Many of our top winners have been girls,” said Ron Beauparlant, a club member who has been involved with the event for years. “Some of these girls have whipped the boys bad. We have one girl, 14 years old, Brooke Discipio, who has won at least 23 awards. And her cousin, who I believe is a year or two younger than she is, can’t weigh more than 50 pounds, she started trapping with her father and now she’s teaching the boys how to skin muskrats!”
Beauparlant is excited that, this year, one of the environmental conservation officers that will be in attendance is a woman. “We have a lot of girls who are really getting into archery and into hunting and into fishing,” he said enthusiastically. “We have a female environmental conservation officer coming this year, Liza, and I think she makes an excellent role model for these young girls. The kids have a lot of questions. This is an opportunity for these kids to talk with them, interact with them, ask them questions and they’re going to be handing out—I’m hoping, we talked about it—a lot of brochures.”
Fishing will be the only event at the derby, but kids are encouraged to explore a wide variety of game sports: fishing; hunting; trapping; archery and the like. The event hosts approximately 70-80 youth, aged 3-15, each year on the first Saturday in June. Trophies are awarded, in three age categories, for the largest fish caught — a fourth award is presented to the young angler who catches the smallest fish. “Sometimes a 3- or 4-year-old only catches a fish 3 or 4 inches long,” explained Beauparlant. “And we don’t want anyone to go away unhappy.” In the state of New York, he said, a fishing permit is required once an individual reaches the age of 16, so the derby is limited to those aged 3-15.
All of the fish that are caught will be treated and returned to the river. “Everything is returned to the water; it’s all catch-and-release. Nothing is killed.” The largest fish he’s ever seen caught at a derby, said Beauparlant, was a 36-inch cod caught by Brooke Discipio. “There are some big fish caught! You’re right on the Mohawk and that basically runs into the Hudson river around there; there are some really big bass caught there too. Of course, that’s not in season.”
“There are a lot of interesting kids there,” said Beauparlant. “We give out a thousand dollars in prizes every year and we feed the kids all day long—donuts in the morning and pizza, hot dogs and drinks. I just got off the phone with the manager of the Pepsi plant in Latham, Art Veino, they always donate a bunch of soda and water and snacks.” Veino, who brings his children to the derby every year, approached Beauparlant as he was working the sign-in table a few years ago and offered his support. “Hell of a nice guy,” said Beauparlant. “A really, really nice person.”
Other than donations from Pepsi-Cola, the Rod and Gun Club raises the money for the event and the prizes themselves. “We have a dedicated Youth Activity Fund,” said Beauparlant. “We have a monthly raffle. You buy a ticket, everyone throws a buck in the pot and that goes into the fund. Some of the members, we donate items and raffle those off and that also goes into the fund. We have a cabin fever party in the spring and there are other things that we do to raise money—a lot of the things we do are specifically to raise money for the Youth Activity Fund.
“Another thing that we do.” he added, “is we send two or three kids a year to Camp Colby—an environmental conservation a camp in the Adirondacks—for a week.” Beauparlant said that his own grandson has been to the DEC-run camp on the western shore of Lake Colby in the Village of Saranac.
“There’s a group of about eight or ten of us,” said Beauparlant. “It’s not just me, there is a lot of preparation that goes into this.” The derby, which lasts from 9 a.m. until 12:30 p.m., culminates in the awarding of trophies and the raffling off of prizes. Each participant gets a raffle ticket and, at the end of the day, the tickets are randomly chosen and each child gets to come up and choose their own prize in the order that their ticket is called. Choices range from things like Super Soakers to camping gear and fishing tackle. “It’s all useful or fun,” said Beauparlant. “And it’s all brand new.”
Participants are not required to belong to the West Albany Road and Gun Club, they only need to show up at the event and sign up at the table—which will likely be manned by Beauparlant. “Just show up!” he said. “There will also be casting contests and literature and worms.”
– Ali Hibbs