Ding Darling Fishing Derby introduces fishing to the young
The Fourth Annual Ding Darling Wildlife Refuge Fishing Derby will be taking advantage of Turkey Day this year, with the event landing on Thanksgiving Weekend this coming Saturday, Nov. 28.
It’s the first time the Ding Darling Fishing Derby will take place on Thanksgiving weekend in hopes to draw in more young anglers. The event will take place on the Sanibel Causeway A Island, bayside, with registration starting at 8:30 a.m. and the fishing competition beginning at 9 a.m.
The Fishing Derby is also free to all participants.
“Some kids are fishing for the first time, but everybody loves it, it’s a lot to enjoy,” said Ding Darling official and Fishing Derby organizer Becky Larkins. “We love keeping it a family-fun event.”
The Fishing Derby is open to youths from ones old enough to hold a fishing pole to age 15 years old. No fishing licenses are required of 15 years old or younger.
Prizes will be handed out to each and every angler, with the competition running from 9-11 a.m. Throughout the derby, names will be drawn for prizes, which include everything from new fishing poles, to bait boxes and grab bags, which has tackle and other fishing necessities.
“Each participant will also get free fishing bags and tackle when they register,” Larkins said.
Free bait will be supplied by The Bait Box of Sanibel, and the top three finishers will win prizes in two divisions, which include anglers nine years old or younger and 10 and over.
Measurements will decide the victors, with each fish caught measured in inches and the top three most inches in each divisions will win trophies and other assorted prizes.
“It’s a catch and release format and we also have a prize for the biggest individual fish, as well,” Larkins said. “Each angler also has to reel the fish in themselves, with no help from the parents.”
All prizes are supplied by the Sanibel Fishing Club and the trophies by the Trophy Case in Fort Myers. The entire event is organized and sponsored by the Ding Darling Wildlife Refuge and the Friends of Ding Darling Refuge.
The goodie bags are based on a first come, first serve basis, so it is encouraged to arrive early.
Larkin is hoping having the event on Thanksgiving weekend will increase the participant numbers, which already has been a solid 30-50 anglers in the first three years.
The different assortment of fish caught includes needle fish and sea trout (the most common), along with Redfish and Sheephead.
“Bring waders which go up to the knee if you have them, because then they can rig out to the sea grass beds, which is where the fish are and the tide is (low),” Larkins said. “This is a great family event.”