While the weather was rainy, cool and overcast this past Saturday, it didn’t dampen the spirits of the participants at the Knee Deep Club’s Annual Kid’s Fishing Derby or The Handicapped Children’s Outing that were both held at Memorial Park Pond In Mt. Arlington.
The morning started with over three dozen local kids showing up to compete in what has been a Lake Hopatcong Tradition going back to the 1950’s. Rod & reel combos along with trophies were awarded to the three young anglers that weighed in the largest fish. In addition, this year Club Trustee Ron Ballard donated another Rod & Reel Combo that would go to the child that caught the first fish. About two minutes into the Derby 4 year old Summer Aughey of Jefferson Township had her fish at the scale to secure that prize.
Well over 100 fish were brought to the scale by the 38 young anglers and top honors went to Connor Mahoney of Roxbury whose largest fish tipped the scale to 2 pounds 10 ounces! Second Place went to Nicholas Grushin of Randolph for his 1 pound 10 ounce catfish and another large whiskered catfish took third Place for young Kaitlin Demsey from Landing that weighed 1 pound 6 ounces. It was the consensus of all the Knee Deepers present that this was the most and some of the largest fish caught in anyone’s memory at this annual event.
As the contest came to a close, the grill was turned on and everyone enjoyed an old fashioned barbeque with hot dogs and hamburgers and all the fixins prepared by head chef Ron Ballard and his crack team of helpers. In addition to a great day of fishing and plenty of food every participant received a bag of fishing goodies courtesy of the Knee Deep Club. This year the club had an added treat thanks to the Rockaway Township Sportsmen Club who donated eight prizes such as tackle and bait boxes that were raffled off to the young anglers that didn’t win one of the top prizes. The RTSC also made a generous donation to help fund the club’s cook out.
Club President Les Aughey commented “It’s really nice to see other outdoor groups support each other and all work together to help introduce kids to the joy of fishing”.
While it remained a little damp and misty throughout, the heavy rain that seemed to threaten all day never really materialized. That was a good thing because after the Derby was over the Knee Deep Club got back to work and set up for the second event, its Annual Chuck Frith Memorial Handicapped Children’s Outing. This is a very rewarding event for the club where they invite kids and some adults with disabilities to enjoy a great day of Fishing, Food & Fun. This event which is funded through generous donations from the William H. & Saddie R. Cutter Trust Fund along with the Cheesebrough Foundation has been held by the Knee Deep Club since 1975.
Despite the threatening weather over two dozen hardy anglers began arriving and each was teamed up with a KDC member along with a fishing rod & reel and the fish continued to co-operate all day. Dozens more fish were caught, including some more large catfish. Throughout Ron Ballard’s crack team continued to bring hot dogs, burgers and drinks so the participants didn’t even have to leave their favorite fishing spot. As this event wound down, each and every attendee was given a Knee Deep Club T-Shirt along with a trophy declaring them “The World’s Best Angler”. Lou Marcucci, one of the club’s Directors noted how rewarding this day is not just for the anglers but the Knee Deep Members that lend a hand. “We all take so much for granted in our lives, but these special kids who enjoy this day so much, you see it in their smiles as the reel in another fish, give us back more than we could ever give them”.
Chuck Frith was an old time Knee Deeper who was instrumental in securing funding for this very worthwhile event, which is now held every year in his memory. The Lake Hopatcong based Knee Deep Club is currently celebrating its 65th Anniversary.
First Fish Caught—Summer Aughey of Jefferson 5 oz. Sunfish
Largest Fish—Connor Mahoney of Roxbury 2 lb. 10 oz. catfish
2nd Place—Nicholas Grushin of Randolph 1 lb. 10 oz catfish
3rd Place—Kaitlin Demsey of Landing 1 lb. 6 oz. catfish