CABOT — This was one big fish story.
The first-ever Concordia Kids Fishing Derby took place Saturday on the Saxony Farm pond and attracted between 350 and 375 young anglers.
Ages were 14 and under and many of the kids were fishing for the first time.
“We wanted to give something back to the community and this seemed like a logical venture to try,” said Charlie Ekas, a maintenance worker with Concordia Lutheran Ministries who helped organize the event.
“Our target was to attract maybe 200 kids. We're easily going to beat that.”
Concordia owns the property that the Saxony pond sits on. The derby ran from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. and featured roughly 25 volunteers, including two members of the Slippery Rock University Bass Club.
More than 200 fish — primarily blue-gill and bass — were caught, 450 hot dogs were cooked and 400 pounds of ice were used, as were 1,200 worms.
“We had to make two or three trips to the bait store ... I don't think there was another worm available in Butler County,” Concordia publicist Frank Skrip joked.
Plenty of tackle boxes, bait, rods and reels were all available for use by first-time fishermen who had no equipment of their own.
“You could walk in here right off the street today and try your hand at fishing,” Mary Jo Coleman of Saxonburg said. “That's what is awesome about this. It's very nice.
“It's offering kids a new outdoors experience at no cost to them.”
A rod and reel set was given away each hour to the youth who caught the biggest fish during that time frame. The first winner was 3-year-old Macy Smith of Saxonburg, who caught an 8-inch bluegill while fishing with her 7-year-old sister.
“Both of my daughters caught their first-ever fish today,” Chris Smith said. “We've been fishing before, but you need results to keep the kids interested. This is a well-organized event.”
One 4-year-old caught 17 blue-gill. The biggest fish caught during the day was a 12.75-inch bass.
“This is the perfect place to hold something like this,” Ekas said. “This is a well-stocked pond and it's private. There are plenty of fish in there.”
Youths participated in the event from throughout Western Pennsylvania.
Doug Whiting of Gibsonia fishes with his sons on Conneaut Lake. With relatives living nearby, they've fished on the Saxony pond before.
“I had no idea what to expect coming here today,” Whiting said. “There are a lot of people here. It's great for the sport.”
He said his kids fish once a week and that “it's a good way for a kid to learn patience.”
His 12-year-old son, Declan, reluctantly agreed.
“Patience is a virtue ... but it's a boring virtue,” Declan said.
Ben Tawney and Kyle Brown were on hand from the 10-member SRU Bass Club, a competitive fishing club that represents the university. The club has existed for six years.
“We're here to support the event, help the kids and spread our name a little bit,” Tawney said.
The SRU Bass Club has competed at collegiate events as far away as Texas and Alabama. It placed seventh out of 50 teams at the national championships in South Carolina last year.
The club also hosts three fishing tournaments at Lake Arthur that are open to anyone. Those will take place July 19, Aug. 16 and Sept. 13.
Details on those events can be found at freeteams.com/SRUBASSFISHING.
Concordia will host a kids (12-under) fishing derby from noon to 3 p.m. July 27 at its Cabot campus as part of its 133rd annual summer festival.