Knights of Columbus fishing derby gets kids hooked
Dartmouth’s young anglers gathered at Mello’s Pond on Saturday morning, July 16 for a junior fishing derby hosted by the Knights of Columbus.
It was a warm and humid morning and the kids, whose ages ranged from 4 to 16 years old, were spread out with their parents around the quarter-mile long pond.
The quiet atmosphere was broken occasionally by the gleeful giggles and shouts of excitement as the kids pulled fish from the water, weighed them, and threw them back.
“It’s a chance for the parents, kids, and grandparents to spend a little time together,” said Knights of Columbus Trustee Mike Medeiros.
Medeiros explained that most of the fish in the pond were large-mouth bass, but there were a few other species as well.
“There’s some snapping turtles that steal the bait and some bluegill and perch but that’s fairly new,” he said.
One young fisher, Sofia Catulo, was unhappy to find a small turtle at the end of her line when she reeled it in.
“Time to put him back in the water,” she said after taking the hook out of its mouth, adding privately to the turtle before sending it on its way, “If I catch you again, I’m so sorry.”
Elsewhere around the pond, though, many of the competitors took to the sport like fish to water.
“This place is great,” said Jacob Blatchford, 15, who had already caught 10 fish at about the halfway point in the derby.
Batchford said he had only started fishing last October but has caught 85 fish since he started the season in May and has fished at Mello’s Pond about eight times in the last two months.
His secret, he said, was rubber worms.
Other anglers made up for their lack of experience with natural ability.
One of those was four-year-old Sage Nicholson who caught a total of 13 fish during the competition, including a sizable bass.
“She shows me up always,” said Sage’s father, Justin Nicholson, adding that she would soon be getting two pins from the state for catching a 6-pound bass and a 26-inch pickerel.
“We win trophies,” Sage said with unabashed enthusiasm, before adding what would prove to be an oft-repeated catchphrase: “Can I get an oh yeah!?”
Justin said Sage has been fishing since she was two-and-a-half and relishes going to competitions with her dad.
“I try to take her to as many derbies as I can because I never got to go when I was a kid,” he said. “She loves them. Win or lose, she still has fun.”
When the competition was over, the fishers and their parents were called over to the main tent where members of the Knights of Columbus awarded first, second, and third place trophies for biggest fish, most fish, and most fish by weight.
The top prizes for the boys went to Blatchford for most fish; Andrew Chase for most fish by weight; and Noah Clark for the largest fish, a 3.5-pound bass.
“It’s very hard [to catch],” Clark said of his catch. “When I was reeling it in and got it on land it broke the line because it was so big.”
First place trophies in the girls tournament went to Nicholson for most fish; Arabella Blackwell, 9, for most fish by weight; and Summer Viveiros, 6, for the largest fish, a 1-pound-11-ounce bass.
After the trophies were given out, each participant was given a raffle ticket and got to take turns picking prizes from a pile of fishing equipment provided by the Knights of Columbus.
“All the kids go home with something, even if they don’t catch anything,” said Medeiros.
Organizers thanked Main Bait in Tiverton, R.I. for providing the bait for the derby, the property owner Matthew Mello for letting them use the pond, and held a moment of silence for former Dartmouth Police and D.A.R.E. officer Lt. Ken Costa.
Cotta, explained Knights of Columbus member Ed Viveiros, started the fishing derby 32 years ago with the Police Athletic League as an offshoot of D.A.R.E.
The Knights of Columbus, he said, took over the competition when Carter retired about eight years ago, maintaining the tradition for another generation of Dartmouth kids.