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Derby survives pandemic, will make debut

The Frankstown Sportsmen’s Association has, for many years, offered a trout fishing derby on its grounds to help youngsters to cultivate a passion for the pastime of casting a line into the water in the great outdoors.

The COVID-19 pandemic pushed this year’s derby back six weeks, but it will be held next Saturday, June 13, on the grounds of the Frankstown Sportsmen’s Club.

The event will be again be held free of charge for all youngsters from a few months of age to 15 years at the club, which offers a large pond covering just about an acre that will be stocked with 1,000 trout, and a stream in which 500 more trout will be placed.

The derby has been a labor of love for Frankstown Sportsmen’s Association president Dave “Chip” Chesney, who has been in charge of the event for the past five years.

“The kids love it,” said Chesney, 42, of Hollidaysburg. “All the kids who come down here are special to me. I love doing this. I like to see the smiles on the kids’ faces when they catch (fish).”

Chesney’s wife, Linda, assists with the event. Their daughter, Destiny, 11, participates in the fishing.

Chesney said that the event has annually drawn an average of 100 to 150 young anglers each year, including a few from as far away as South Carolina.

“We get people from this immediate area, but we also get people from places like State College and Huntingdon,” Chesney said. “Most of the time, the parents are standing there while the kids are fishing, and we also have people from the club with nets if the kids need help getting the fish in.”

The Bald Eagle Sportsmen’s Club provides the trout for the event, with some of the fish measuring up to 25 inches in length.

Members of the Frankstown Sportsmen’s Association will pick up the fish in trucks from the Bald Eagle club next Friday, and stock the fish that day in the pond and stream at the Frankstown club – which is located at 277 Frankstown Sportsmen’s Road, Hollidaysburg.

Children 12 years of age and under will fish in the pond, while those ages 13 to 15 will fish in the stream.

Each participant may catch up to five trout, and trophies are awarded to the first, second, and third-place participants in each age group according to the total inches in length measured on the trout caught.

“In other words, if all the fish measured together that are caught by the first-place participant total 40 inches, the second-place participant might have a measure of 35 inches in total fish caught, and the third-place participant might have a measure of 30 inches in total fish caught,” Chesney said.

There will also be a free mount awarded to the participant who catches the largest individual fish of the day. That mount, enabling the lucky participant to display his or her catch on the wall at his or her home, is graciously provided to the club free of charge by taxidermist Dylan Dowey of Williamsburg.

Wayne Dewald, 58, of Altoona, who was the club’s president before Chesney, has helped out with the youth fishing event for many years.

“It gives the kids a chance to fish, and it gives them the experience of fishing,” Dewald said. “The kids just have a ball. It’s great to see the kids catch fish – some of who may not otherwise have an opportunity to go fishing.”

Participants in the derby can register for one of two sessions – the morning session, in which fishing begins at 9 a.m. and ends at noon, or the afternoon session, which runs from 1 to 4 p.m. Trophies will be awarded after each of the two sessions.

In accordance with social distancing principles, the awards presentations are scheduled to be held outside this year, rather than inside the club, according to Chesney.

“We’re going to try our best at that,” Chesney said about adhering to the social distancing guidelines of at least six feet of space between people who are not from the same household. “People can also wear masks if they wish to do so.”

Chesney said that most participants bring their own bait, fishing rods, and tackle, to the event, but rods, bait and tackle can also be provided by the club for those who need it.

Free food and drinks will be provided to all of the youngsters and their parents, but Chesney said that he’d like everybody involved to pre-register online on the Frankstown Sportsmen’s Association’s Facebook page.

There will also be registration sessions at 8 a.m. Saturday at the club for youngsters fishing in the morning session, and shortly after noon for participants in the afternoon session.

“Pre-registration makes it a little easier for us,” Chesney said. “That way, we have a count. We know how many kids are coming, and we know how many awards to give out, and how much food and how manydrinks to get.”

The event was originally scheduled for Saturday, May 2, but postponed due to COVID-19. Chesney said that the Frankstown club also holds a similar fishing event each year for Intermediate 8 Unit students from Hollidaysburg on the first Tuesday in May, but that event was cancelled this year because of the pandemic, and it will not be rescheduled.

“The regular event was supposed to be held on the first Saturday in May, but we weren’t able to get any trophies for it, because those businesses were shut down,” Chesney said.

Better late than never, though.

“All the kids just love to come down here and have a good time fishing,” Chesney said.

For more information on the event, Chesney can be reached at (814)-931-7708.

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