Thirty-four young anglers surrounded the pond in Mt. Arlington’s Memorial Park on Saturday as part of the Knee Deep Club’s 50th annual Junior Derby, which was followed by the biggest-ever showing at the club’s annual handicapped outing. Jake Mendky’s two-pound largemouth bass weighed in as the top catch of the day, followed by Gavon Hand in second place with a 1-pound, 10-ounce catfish. Third place went to Nicholas Grushin with a 1-pound, 3-ounce catfish; fourth to David Baraniuk with a 15-ounce largemouth bass; and fifth to Jimmy Bonnello with a 14-ounce catfish. In other awards, Elizabeth Tuorinsky received a prize for the first fish, Taylor Goldschmiedt received a prize for the smallest fish, and Shaelyn Williamson caught the most fish. “It was really a great day,” said Nancy Fernandez, a trustee of the Knee Deep Club. “There were lots of happy kids.” The event was followed by the annual handicapped outing, which has been held for at least 25 years and drew the most-ever participants this time around, with at least 50 anglers of all ages visiting from a variety of special-needs programs around the area. “This is really the event of the year for a lot of these folks,” said Jim Salerno, who is on the club’s board of directors. “And it puts things in perspective for the rest of us. To be able to extend our fun times to the disadvantaged—it doesn’t get much better than that.”
For the 50th year, the Knee Deep Club hosted a Junior Fishing Derby for the area's youngest anglers.
Participants lined the sides of the Memorial Pond.
Derby winner and Hopatcong resident Jake Mendky, who is 9 years old, with his prize-winning two-pound largemouth bass.
Second-place finisher Gavon Hand, who is 4 years old, with his second-place-winning catfish. Harold Mabee was the club's official "weigh master."
Oty Goldschmiedt holds the tournament's youngest participant, Diem Goldschmiedt (11 months) of Hopatcong.
Elizabeth Tuorinksy, 13, of Mt. Arlington, has been participating in the event since she was four.
Tom Fernandez, 16, was a participant for many years in the annual Junior Derby. This year, as Lou Marcucci said, his father "passed the spatula" to him as the official chef of the event. Fernandez is studying the culinary arts at Sussex Vocational-Technical School, and continues to be an avid fisherman.
Matthew Glory, 9, of Independence, catches his first of the day. His grandfather, Harold Mabee, gives him a hand.
Glory has participated every year since he was three years old.
Summer Aughey smiles with her dad, Shawn, and her big catch: a crappie.
Emily Popek, 5, of Stillwater, fishes in the afternoon, visiting with a group of YMCA partipants.
Devan McCarthy, 6, of Lake Hopatcong, accidentally caught a baby muskrat earlier in the day.
Amanda Dorando, 11, of Mt. Arlington, with her big catfish catch.
Stephanie Estes, 17, of Rockaway, has been participating in the annual event for years. "This is our big fishing trip of the year," said her mom, Denise.
Lou Marcucci of the Knee Deep Club hands out t-shirts and trophies to all of the afternoon participants.
Darlyn Darling of Netcong shows off her fishing trophy.
Kyle Gibson, 15, of Mt. Olive, with his first catch.
Nancy Fernandez, Amy Fernandez, Lou Marcucci, and Peter Cusizk relax after a long day of running the events. "We can always use volunteers and new members," Cusizk said. "It's good to see the young kids out there."
More than a dozen Knee Deep Club members volunteered as part of the all-day event.