At Brighton Town Park, swirling snow did not deter the hundred or so kids and friends from braving the mud and elements to catch and release fish at the Joe Decarlis Youth Fishing Derby, the 30th edition of the spring ritual that attracts generations of anglers, from the Rochester Bassmasters who help run the event to the first five year olds eligible for the fun competition.
As seen in Kids Fishing Derby at Brighton Town Park. And a fish story. (below) two years ago, we creatively reenacted a fish release at the pond.
This year we outdid ourselves. Channeling an inner Captain Ahab from Moby Dick, we entered the pond with a sharp spear and ultimately stabbed our prey — Porgies — that proved to be delicious. The capture was unprecedented as Porgies are salt water fish and never before seen in the pond.
This year was chilly but the snow squalls actually added a rugged, picturesque element to the ritual. All had a good time (except our fish). Angelo Palazzo was the first fisherman on the scene. At fifteen — the upper age limit — this is Angelo’s 8th and final Derby. Angelo and dad found an ideal spot, practicing a few reels before the official 9 a.m. start.
May 7, 2017
There is always something happening at Brighton Town Park on Westfall Road.
In How do you make it to Carnegie Hall?, we saw kids throwing coconuts outside the Carmen Clark Lodge.
In The difference between guys and girls in coed softball, we saw guys and girls mixing it up on the diamond.
In New Team in Town, we saw the ROC City Steelers working hard during summer practices.
Yesterday we saw the 28th annual Kids Fishing Derby.
As explained by event organizer Michele Aman, Recreation Supervisor, the Derby is run by the Town of Brighton Recreation Department with much assistance from the Rochester Bassmasters.
On this drizzly day perfect for spring fishing, 41 kids with family and friends came out to the Brighton Town Park to see who could catch the heaviest fish: bluegills, large mouthed bass, bullheads and carp. Buckets lined the banks of the pond as parents helped kids bait their hooks, each hoping to land the occasional hungry two pounder.
After fish were caught and placed in the buckets, the Bassmasters on the deck of the Carmen Clark Lodge weighed the fish which were then returned to the pond. Todd Keller helped Grady Hopkins retrieve his fish that came in at .06lb. Noam Ernan’s catch (pictured at top) was close to two lbs. At the end of the day, trophies were given based on the total weight of caught fish.
No one knows more about the derby and the pond than Mark Kritall. Mark worked for the Town of Brighton for 34 years before recently retiring. But even in retirement he was at the Derby; he’s helped run all 28. Mark enjoys the passion the kids have for fishing, a passion he’s watched passed down for almost two generations. And Mark is proud the Derby draws good crowds every year despite our world of overscheduled childhood.
My first question was, where do the fish come from? Mark said over the years fish have entered the pond from a variety of sources. He remembers way back when a nearby pond — now Lac De ville and Topp’s Plaza — was being drained. The fish in the pond were quickly congregating in the remaining water. Mark and other town workers brought 50 gallon buckets, saved the fish and deposited them in the Town pond. In theory, Mark says their descendants could have been in yesterday’s Derby.
Sometimes people fishing in the nearby canal drop their catch in the pond. Sometimes families have goldfish at home that outgrow their bowl. Rather than flush the goldfish down the toilet, people release them into the pond. The goldfish grow into the beautiful big orange carp that today awe youngsters as they shimmer across the pond. The Department of Environmental Conservation used to stock the pond, but about ten years ago determined it was self sustaining.Actually, I even added on fish to the population back in high school.
In my one and only fishing expedition, our family friend Tom Harris took me out to Sodus where we snared several large ones. Tom explained we wouldn’t kill them there, but put them in an empty bucket in the back seat.
By the time we got back to Brighton, all the fish except one were dead. Tom took pity on the survivor which he felt should be granted a reprieve. When we got back, my parents were at the movies. Devilishly, Tom said we should put the diehard in my mother’s bathtub. We did.My parents returned. As my mother was going upstairs to the bathroom, I told my father to be quiet and counted four-three-two-one . . . on cue, we heard a shriek from upstairs. When my mother recovered her senses, she said she didn’t mind Tom the prankster saving the fish, but it couldn’t stay the night.
At about 11pm, my father and I put the fish back in the bucket and drove over to the pond. As we were struggling with the bucket in the dark, a police officer stopped us, suspicious we might be poachers. We explained we were not taking fish from the pond, but instead releasing the pardoned survivor. The officer bought our story which was true. If that fish was a female, in theory her descendants could have been in yesterday’s Derby.
For good measure, Michele and I recreated the decades ago event. After the Bassmaster’s weighed Noam’s catch, we took the fish back to the pond. We found the exact spot where I had thrown back the fish about 35 years earlier.
My last question: what is the name of the pond? Mark doesn’t know if the pond has a real name. In all his years, it’s just been the Brighton Town Park pond. I wondered if he’d like it named after him. At first, Mark said, no way, but then pondered, maybe at some point way, way down the line, they could call it the Mark Kritall Pond.