Chester fishing derby

Anglers along the road and dam at the Chester Fishing Derby. Photo by Ron Patch

The 2023 Chester Fishing Derby was held this past Saturday, May 13, at the Chester Reservoir. As usual, George Wilson was set up registering kids for prizes.

The weather was perfect, other than a brisk wind blowing down the reservoir. This headwind made casting difficult. It was fun watching the kids. No one fell in this year.

Prizes were for the first fish, the largest fish, and first to catch their limit of five fish. George had 44 kids registered. Each kid was given a ticket for the raffle at the end of the derby.

Avalynn Heybyrne caught the first trout. Hunter Kurjiaka and Silas Murphy both caught nice trout. Moms, dads, and grandparents helped their kids. George estimated 100 people were present.

I saw many familiar faces and some newcomers. Some of the younger kids had more fun playing in the spillway than fishing. I love seeing kids entertaining themselves.

After prizes were awarded, George held the raffle for additional prizes. Kids waited patiently to see if they had a winning ticket. I’ve concluded kids haven’t changed much over the years.


Some Rod & Gun history

The first fishing derby I remember is 1956. I attended many more as years went by. It never occurred to me, then or since, how many years Chester Rod & Gun has hosted these derbies.

In the minutes from a 1955 Chester Rod & Gun secretary’s book, I found an interesting entry for April 12, 1955. This entry sheds light on how long the derby has been held.

April 12, 1955

The matter of stocking the kids’ brook was discussed. A motion was made and 2nd. The secretary made an application to the state for some trout for this brook. It was also decided to stock it from the swimming pool to Henry Thomas camp this year.”

Meetings were held at the Grange Hall, now a tea shop, or what was once VITICA. When the Grange raised the rent from $4 to $5, the meetings were moved to the American Legion Hall, lastly Free Range on the Park.

The kids’ brook is the Lovers Lane Brook behind Buttonwood Farm. Mrs. Kelly, who owned Buttonwood, had some of her hands clear the brook of brush so the kids could fish through her field.

The swimming pool mentioned is not the pool we have today. The old swimming pool was located further up on the same side. It was a rough concrete bottom pool, with water taken in from the brook. I remember catching trout in the swimming pool in May, before the pool was chlorinated.

April 1955, I would have been three and a half years old. How many years the derby was held before 1955 I do not know. If those records exist I haven’t seen them.

It takes dedicated volunteers to make this happen, as it has for the last 70 years. Let’s not forget that the state has stocked the trout all those years. And the Town of Chester provides the reservoir. It makes a wonderful small town event.

I saw a young mother at the derby. She had a newborn on her chest, in a pouch worn around her neck or shoulders. Excuse me, I don’t know the names of things mothers have today. I could tell by the way she was cradling the baby’s head it was a newborn. We briefly spoke, with me commenting how great it was that she had the baby outdoors so early.

Instead of an old saying I offer a fishing story. I was about 5 years old when my parents took me fishing at Amherst Lake. We parked alongside the road and went down over the rocky bank. Dad and I fished, and other than getting hung up a lot, didn’t catch any fish.

There was a man fishing to our right. He started reeling in with his pole bent over. I said, “You ain’t got nothing mister, you’re hung.” “Come here,” he said. He handed me his pole and let me reel the fish in. You don’t forget these things.

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