The Optimist Club of Payson, in conjunction with the Arizona Game and Fish Department, sponsored a daylong Kid's Fishing Festival at Green Valley Lake last week.
When the sun came out and the temperatures warmed, the young fishermen, accompanied by many moms and dads, started fishing with hopes of catching a rainbow trout or bass, big enough to win the day's contest.
More than 275 young fishermen signed up to fish or to win one of the many door prizes given away during the day.
Longtime residents Tracy and Teresa Purtee volunteered to be coordinators of registration and to weigh all the fish throughout the day. They have administered numerous fishing tournaments over the years, the most noted being the annual Payson Christian School Trout Tournament held at Woods Canyon Lake.
If a child wanted to fish and had no equipment, the Arizona Game and Fish Department came to the rescue. Rods and reels were on loan for the day and bait was provided, so all children could have the opportunity to fish for that lunker bass or trout.
Doug Thornberg, the head of fisheries education, along with local game officers Henry Apfel, David Daniels and John Dickson, provided fishing tips and assistance, baiting hooks throughout the day.
Participants were also drawn to the casting contest and seminar, sponsored by The Tackle Box.
The store's pro staff demonstrated casting techniques and assisted the young fishermen in making a precise cast to hook that hungry bass or trout.
Payson Parks and Recreation Department donated the facilities, as well as adult volunteers under the leadership of Mary McMullen.
McMullen is currently coordinating with the Optimist Club to make this an annual affair because of the success of the inaugural derby.
Other than the fishing, the children's attention was also captivated by Captain John Wisner of the Diamond Star Fire Department, who created balloon characters that were given away during the day.
Local radio station KCMA FM presented a live remote with music and interviews.
KMOG AM was also on location and aired their weekly angling report from the fishing derby.
Despite inclement weather, the day was a total success, introducing young people to fishing. This is one more positive option for the children of this community.
Get hooked on fishing.