The Knee Deep Club Junior Derby Day, held on Saturday, June 8 at Memorial Pond in Mt. Arlington, had some very pleasant surprises for those in attendance. The event has been held by the 67 year old Lake Hopatcong based fishing club for as long as anyone can remember.
The first surprise came as the two straight days of heavy rain that soaked the region and dumped more than two and a half inches, came to an abrupt end just before the start of this greatly anticipated event. The gathering of all the equipment; from grills, tables and chairs, rods, reels and bait, food and drinks, ice, prizes and grab bag gifts was made a lot more difficult for the Knee Deep volunteers because of the weather. But as the clouds parted, as if by design, the KDC volunteers sprung into action and quickly set up the registration area, staged all the equipment and got the “barbecue pit” all ready to go, just as about 30 young fishing enthusiasts along with their families began showing up. They weren’t going to let some silly rain ruin their day of fishing fun. As soon as kids registered, lines were cast and fish were being reeled in fast and furious. Fishing was great and it appeared that every child present caught some fish.
“I can’t remember the fish cooperating this well in all of the years I’ve attended this event. You can’t beat that, good weather, great fishing and food and most important big smiles on every kid’s face,” said club president, Brad Garie.
Lucky young anglers quickly made their way to the scales to see whose fish would take the three top prizes for the largest fish weighed in. While nearly every species of fish imaginable, from trout, perch, sunnies, bass, catfish and more, seemed to be weighed in, it was the large Crappies that ruled the day. The top three fish that won trophies and nice rod and reel combos were all crappies and only separated by 3 ounces in weight. As the entries were tallied and the kids along with their parents waited for the final results C.J. Pashas 1 lb. 1 oz. fish took top honors followed closely by Gavin Gardner and Asher Zwichel. Thanks to the generous donations from the Rockaway Sportsmen’s Club and the Rockaway Twp. PBA, additional prizes were awarded for everything from the fist fish caught, to the tiniest fish weighed in and even prizes for individual specie. All the while, the club’s “barbecue pit” was in full swing under the direction of Tommy Fernandez who came home from his culinary studies at Johnson & Wales University in Rhode Island just for the day’s event. In addition to the food and prizes every attendee was also given a grab bag of fishing goodies compliments of the Knee Deep Club.
Another pleasant surprise for the club was when long time KDC members and lifelong friends E. J. Wood of Hopatcong and Susan Field
of Fair Haven, VT showed up with E.J.’s two grandkids Samantha and Brandon Wood of Asbury, NJ to enjoy some KDC hospitality. Susan was visiting New Jersey for her 50th high school reunion. It was a special treat to the Knee Deep Club’s officers and trustees because both E.J.’s and Susan’s dads were Knee Deep Club presidents in the earlier days of the club. E.J.’s dad, Stew Lant served from 1968-72 and Susan’s dad, George Dutcher was president 1955-56. A lot of the great personal bond that these two share was built over their family’s involvement with the Knee Deep Club. For this writer, who was president nearly 20 years ago, it was the highlight of the day to hear all of the stories of the “good old days of the club” from these two great ladies who had attended this very event when they themselves were young kids, just Like E.J.’s grand children were doing. Sue said she hoped to return next year with her young grandson, Parker.
As the Junior Derby began to wind down, the volunteers on hand swung back into action, as the second event of the day was just about to begin. As in past years, the Knee Deep Club holds the Chuck Frith Memorial Handicapped Children’s Outing where special kid’s with special needs come and join the club for some fishing fun & food. Tommy Fernandez and his crew sparked up the grills as about three dozen of the club’s guests arrived. Every child present was well fed and whether they were the lucky ones who caught some fish or not each went home with a KDC t-Shirt and a trophy acclaiming them “The World's Best Angler.” This most rewarding event is generously funded by grants from The William & Saddie Cutter Trust Fund and the Chesebrough Summit Home for Children. While the club is aware how much our newfound friends enjoy the day, it’s equally rewarding for all the volunteers to be able to help make the day possible. A big thank you goes out to all who attended and volunteered their time.
Find out more about the Knee Deep Club by visiting www.kneedeepclub.org. Membership is open to anyone and you don’t have to be an angler to join. The club also supports various environmental efforts around the lake.
Many of the attendees of this year's Knee Deep Club Junior Derby Saturday.