Under mostly cloudy skies that some would call good fishing weather, 213 young anglers and their families gathered Saturday, June 2, at three Delaware ponds for DNREC’s Fish & Wildlife Natural Resources Police 32nd Annual Youth Fishing Tournament. All fish caught in the tournament were weighed and released, as young anglers got a first-hand lesson in conservation.
“For more than 30 years, this tournament has drawn young anglers to experience the excitement of catching fish while learning about conservation and taking care of our natural resources,” said DNREC Secretary Shawn M. Garvin. “I applaud all of this year’s participants and congratulate this year’s winners on their skill and potentially a little bit of luck.”
The New Castle County location, Lums Pond near Bear, drew 108 children and young teens casting lines, while at Kent County’s Akridge Scout Reservation pond near Camden, 54 youngsters turned out. Sussex County reeled in 51 young anglers to Ingrams Pond near Millsboro.
When the day was done, 14-year-old Elise Britton of Middletown came out as overall statewide winner, as well as the New Castle County winner, for the second year in a row, with her largest catch, a 7.94-pound carp, the largest fish caught in this year’s tournament.
Other big fish included a 2.5-pound largemouth bass caught at Akridge Scout Reservation by Joshua Benton of Dover; a 1-pound, 14.9-ounce brown bullhead catfish caught by Sussex winner Luke Hitchens of Dagsboro; and a 1-pound, 2.7-ounce chain pickerel caught from Ingrams Pond by Garret Rogers.
The smallest fish of the day were caught by Trevor Torbert of Harrington, 0.01-pound bluegill from Akridge Scout Reservation’s pond; and Jimmy Swatski, with a 0.03-ounce bluegill from Ingrams Pond.
This year’s county winners and the overall statewide winner will be invited to a special trophy presentation on Governor’s Day, Thursday, July 26, at the 2018 Delaware State Fair in Harrington.
At Ingram’s Pond, Luke Hitchens, 11, of Dagsboro, was the day’s overall winner for Sussex County, with a total of 4.54 pounds of fish. Other Sussex County winners were:
• Ages 4-7 — First place, John Timmons V, 6, of Georgetown, 3.15 pounds; second place, Madison Culley, 7, of Laurel, 1.87 pounds; third place, Joseph Lawson, 7, of Laurel, 1.33 pounds.
• Ages 8-11 — First place, Edvardo Lopez, 10, of Selbyville, 4.26 pounds; second place, Ava Puddicombe, 11, of Laurel, 3.95 pounds; third place, Nathan Green, 11, of Millsboro, 2.53 pounds.
• Ages 12-15 — First place, Zachary Hicks, 13, of Greenwood, 1.43 pounds; second place, Garrett Rogers, 12, of Millsboro, 1.16 pounds; third place, Camrin Croney, 12, of Ocean View, 0.90 pounds.
Tournament winners received trophies and prizes, and all participants received prizes. This year’s tournament donors and supporters included statewide donor Cabela’s, and, in Sussex County: Dewey Beach Lions Club, BJ’s, Dairy Queen, Jungle Jim’s, Funland, Lewes Harbour Marina, Lingo Marine, Short’s Marine, Rick’s Bait & Tackle, Hook’em & Cook’em Bait & Tackle, Millsboro McDonald’s, Old Inlet Bait & Tackle, Ice House Bait & Tackle, The Lead Pot, and White Water Mountain.
The Youth Fishing Tournament was established to introduce youth to the sport of fishing and to teach the catch-and-release approach to conservation. The tournament, held annually in June, is open to youth ages 4 through 15. For more information on the Youth Fishing Tournament, call (302) 739-9913.