The 17th annual Fish 'n Fun Derby May 14 at Camp Jordan Park and Pond will teach youth how to be outdoor anglers.
"Fishing is a great family activity and it's a great way to get people into the outdoors," said Betty Miles, events coordinator for the Tennessee Aquarium, which is hosting the event. "All rods and reels are provided by the Tennessee Wildlife Resources Administration. The TWRA also stocks that pond and there are some pretty big fish in there."
Youth ages 12 and under are invited to the derby, which will begin at 8:30 a.m. The last fish will be caught at noon. The Derby is free, but pre-registration is required.
The event will begin in the Camp Jordan arena with a fishing clinic. Professional fishers with the Outdoor Adventures Network will help children learn about fish habitats, behavior and equipment. Then the young fishers will be taken to the pond and taught by local volunteers from the Chattanooga Bass Club how to cast, tie knots, bait hooks and reel them in using catch and release techniques.
Each fish caught will be measured for size and then released. Students will catch mostly largemouth bass, sunfish and catfish. There will also be prizes given to young fishers that are sponsored by local Bass Pro Shops.
A Casting Kids contest will allow participants to practice their accuracy in casting by trying to land their hook into a hoop set on the ground. The winners in each age division can continue competing with the hopes of reaching the state competition, where they have the opportunity to hook some scholarships.
"When these kids catch a fish, they are so excited," Miles said. "It's is fun to see how much fun they are having. By having that experience and connecting with nature, I think it makes kids take care of their rivers and streams so they can fish again in the future."
The Tennessee Aquarium teaches conservation through events like the Fish 'n Fun Derby as well as participating in a breed-and-release program for lake sturgeon.
Four or five times a year the aquarium releases sturgeon into the Tennessee River, with more than 90,000 having been released in the 10 years since the program began.