Kids get hooked on fishing as annual derby returns

Jul 17, 2021

The fish might have been few and far between Saturday morning, but that didn’t stop families from enjoying some quality time with their kids as the “Get Hooked on Fishing, Not Drugs” fishing derby at Mello’s Pond returned following its Covid cancellation.

“We’re so grateful this can happen,” co-organizer Ed Viveiros said. “It’s great for the kids.” 

The annual event, which saw around 40 kids participate, is sponsored by the Knights of Columbus. 

Every year, kids ages 6-16 try to place in at least one of three categories: largest fish, total weight, and total quantity. There is also a raffle to ensure all the kids end up leaving with at least one prize.

“The kids go crazy,” Vivieros said.

Derbies first began in 1988. Co-organizer Bob Peckham noted that he and the late Ken Cotta, a Dartmouth police officer who was also involved in the local D.A.R.E. program, were at the Acushnet-based Stream and Lakers Fishing Club when the two first spawned the idea to have a cost-effective event that kids could enjoy.

Those early derbies were initially run through the School Department. Peckham said something he’ll never forget was that the School Committee chair at the time told him “I hope this is around in another year.”

“Here we are 33 years later and probably half a dozen superintends later and the program is still going strong,” he laughed.

After Cotta passed away in 2016, Viveriros noted that the Knights of Columbus — long-time sponsors of the event — stepped up to continue the tradition. 

With the two year gap between the fishing derbies, Viveriros said a lot of prep work had to be done to the land.

“You could not get through because the road was so overgrown.” he said. “This [derby] wouldn't happen without those volunteers.”

The young anglers were more than happy to be back.

Arabella Blackwell, 8, said things were “a little slow” at the pond, although she did not mind. 

While she only caught a few small fish early on in the derby, she said she very much enjoyed spending time with her dad Dustin and cousin Summer Viveiros, 5.

“We came here to have fun,” she said. “We’re best cousins.”

Brook Davis, 15, also didn’t see too many fish on her line after the sun came out from the morning fog. 

Her mother Gayle noted that it was likely the heat and humidity that kept the fish from being all that active, while Brook attributed it to “pole issues.”

“That, or you’re just bad,” her twin brother Reid, who caught three fish, said.

Rochester resident Cash Jerome, 12, said this was just his second derby. 

When he first attended with his dad in 2019, the young angler noted that “there was nothing” to catch. This time, with his grandparents Tim and Rosemary in attendance, Jerome was finally able to catch a 10 oz smallmouth bass — just minutes before the derby ended.

“What luck,” he said. “I was about to cast again, but then it just caught.”

The day’s winners:

Top three biggest catches: (girls) Eva Murphy, Sara Clark, Rori MacKinnon; (boys) Colin Schockley, Jonathan Gibbs, Jonathan Mello.

Most fish by weight: (girls) Brook Davis, Summer Viveiros; (boys) Justin Correia, Caleb Benoit, Adiran Rodrigeuz.

Most fish total: (girls) Zoey Murphy, A’Mya Acevedo; (boys) Reid Davis, Joseph Albernaz, Andrew Chase.