Chester fishing derby

Addison, fishing. Photo by Ron Patch

CHESTER, Vt. – This past Saturday, May 15, was the Chester Fishing Derby at Chester Reservoir. It was a warm morning, with bright sun. George Wilson was there from the Chester Rod & Gun Club, registering kids for the derby. At 9 a.m., the derby opened.

As usual, Danny Clemons and I went. Danny sat with George and watched the kids report their catch. I wandered back and forth across the dam and along the road, talking to kids and their parents.

Excitement was in the air. It was shortly after 9 a.m. when Jacob Studin caught the first fish, a six-inch bass. Speaking of bass, there were two large bass, slowly cruising offshore. They were 15 to 17 inches long.

Right now, the bottom of the reservoir is covered with leaves from last fall. There were a few bare spots where a female bass, using her tail, had swept a small area clear of leaves down to the gravel. She does this so she can lay her eggs in gravel. I pointed this out to a couple people there. They found it interesting.

I’ve been covering this event for a number of years now. Six years ago, I met three-year-old Addison. I’ve seen her each year since. She has grown into a fine fisherman. This year, Addison brought her friend Emma.

The catch

There were 48 kids registered to fish. Over 90 fish were caught. This was the best derby in recent years.

Most of the trout measured 9 to 11 inches. However, three trout measuring 12 inches were reported. George carefully measured each fish and recorded it. This was a little difficult as the fish were flopping around on the measuring table. The question for George was how to award the largest fish category, a single prize, to more than one winner.

George solved the dilemma this way: Mathew Studin caught one 12-inch trout; Caleb Spittle caught two 12-inch trout. George awarded Caleb the prize.

As I walked around, I talked with kids and parents. I asked one young girl if she was having trout for supper. Her mom said she didn’t know how to cook them. I told her how to clean them, and how I cook them, lightly coated with flour in a hot skillet with a little butter, not olive oil.

It was encouraging to see new faces this year. I hesitated to interfere or make suggestions, but I noticed one boy needing help. He didn’t have a good technique. So I said to dad, “I don’t like to butt in, but I can show him a better way.” Dad said, “Please do, I don’t know how to fish.”

Anglers prepare to fish. Photo by Ron Patch

Another boy was catching trout and releasing them. I cringed when I saw the boy handle a trout with his dry hands. Again, I was hesitant, but I felt I had to say something.

I showed him and his dad how to wet your hands before handling a trout, that is, if you plan on releasing the trout. I explained that trout are covered with a thin mucus type film. This film protects the trout from disease. Handling a trout with dry hands removes the film from the trout, exposing his sensitive skin to disease. If you wet your hands first, none of the film will stick to your hands. His dad appreciated what I told him.

I’m hesitant because I don’t want to appear as a know-it-all, or as interfering.

Fishermen have always been superstitious. Another kid wasn’t having much luck. I told him something an old man told me when I was a boy, which was, “Spit on the bait for good luck.” He did, but I don’t know what effect it might have had.

George had a steady line of kids waiting to have their fish measured. Kids patiently waited their turn. George had a can of bug dope on his table for people to use. It’s a good thing, mosquitoes were abundant.

When I left, I went to say goodbye to Addison and Emma. Emma gave me a big hug.

The next meeting of Chester Historical Society is Thursday, May 26 at the Academy Building on Main Street, at 7 p.m. The monthly slideshow will be photos from the estate of Lucile Carlton. Most photos date to the 1920s and were taken near and around the Carlton house on Goldthwaite Road. Included will be a couple views of the Carlton soapstone quarry off Reservoir Road.


This week’s old saying: “A bad day of fishing beats a good day at work.”

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