PLAINVILLE - More than 200 fish were reeled in, measured and released back into Paderewski Pond Sunday morning, as the town’s first fishing derby in three years saw what was believed to be its biggest turnout and fish catch in history.
About 50 percent more children participated this year than ever before, estimated Roberta Lauria, vice chairwoman of the Plainville Conservation Commission.
The commission organized the event, which used to happen annually but went on hiatus after hundreds of fish washed up dead on the pond’s shores in 2015. The state Department of Energy and Environmental Protection determined the fish kill to be the result of natural causes - a deadly combination of that year’s drought conditions and warm water temperatures.
A cool breeze, a healthy pond and a whole lot of kids brought the derby back to life.
The waters were stocked with trout, and the average size fish caught was around 7 inches.
The morning’s two largest catches were around 12 inches each, by Tony Cyrluik and Ethan Chasse. Both boys took home prizes in the form of new fishing gear.
It was 5-year-old Brayden Rinheart’s first try at the sport. He caught seven trout Sunday.
“They haven’t had the derby in a couple of years, so this was his first time out,” his father, Marc Rinheart, said, helping his son unhook a small fish that was quickly thrown back.
“I like fishing,” Brayden said. “I like reeling them in.”
The family was situated right beside another boy of the same first name and age.
Brayden Zdunczyk, 5, was joined by Raful, his father, and Slawek, his grandfather: three generations, one fishing pole and a lot of lessons.
“The Plainville fishing derby is a big deal. You’ve got to be here,” Raful Zdunczyk said with a smile. “Fishing teaches him how to be patient.”
Patience was everywhere, as kids eagerly waited in line with their catches and commissioners carefully measured hundreds of sunfish, perch and trout.
“We have a great turnout and they caught a ton of fish,” member Randy Paz said.
The last derby, in 2014, didn’t see nearly as many fish or children, he pointed out.
“The kids are having a great time and people are catching multiple fish so I’m happy,” Paz added.
The competition was open to ages 5 to 15, and most participants were on the younger end of that range.
Parents and grandparents simply acted as assistants, teachers and cheerleaders.
All lines came out of the water at 11 a.m. Five-year-old Ryan O’Leary then took to explaining exactly how he caught his biggest fish to friend Amaya DeCrosta. Both attend kindergarten at Toffolon School.
“The first one was 5 inches,” he said proudly, “7 for the big one.”
Ryan’s mother, Jenn O’Leary, said she also enjoyed the morning.
“I’m happy they did this today. It’s a great thing for the town.”
Erica Schmitt can be reached at 860-801-5097, or firstname.lastname@example.org.