FWC News Release

April 8, 2008
Contact: Marty Hale or Joy Hill, 352-732-1225

Hey kids, let’s go fishing!

Spring in Marion County means it’s time for the annual Lake Eaton Kids’ Fishing Derby on Saturday, April 19, at the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission’s (FWC) Ocala Conservation Center and Youth Camp in the Ocala National Forest. The derby is free for kids ages 5-12 and runs from 8:30 a.m. until noon.

“Everything the kids need to fish, including cane poles, bait, instruction and help will be provided. We’ll be stocking channel catfish raised at the Florida Bass Conservation Center, so there’s a pretty good chance the fish will be biting,” said Marty Hale, FWC’s Northeast Region freshwater fisheries biological administrator.

“The kids will fish from the pier, so for safety and to avoid tangled lines, please leave rods and reels home,” he added.

In addition to fishing, there is a casting contest and an all-time favorite of derby-goers called Bugs and Critters. In this creepy-crawly activity, kids get to wade into the lake with dip nets and scoop up bugs and critters. An FWC biologist uses the experience to teach kids about the aquatic ecosystem. The kids will get wet, so be sure to bring a change of clothes.

New this year is a hands-on craft activity where the kids will be able to take their finished product home. And each registered child who participates will receive the famous Lake Eaton Kids’ Fishing Derby t-shirt, absolutely free.

Back again by popular demand is the Bullet and Jada Show, an entertaining act by a pair of comical Frisbee-catching Australian cattle dogs. And, after a morning of fishing and fun, kids will be treated to lunch in the camp cafeteria.

And there’s one more thing. This year, for the first time, every child who signs up for and participates in the derby will get to take home a brand new starter fishing combo, which includes a rod and reel and basic tackle kit. The fishing kits are courtesy of Fish Florida, a non-profit organization that supports activities to teach children about fishing and aquatic habitats. Fish Florida’s funding comes from the Fish Florida specialty license tag, featuring Florida’s official saltwater fish, the sailfish. Purchasing one of these tags helps ensure children will have an opportunity to participate in the wonderful world of fishing.

“Fishing is a real family event, and these derbies provide a great opportunity to introduce kids to this fun and wholesome activity,” Hale said. “And who knows, after the adults see what fun it is they too may decide to start fishing again.”

Space is limited to 150 kids, who must register in advance. To sign up, call the FWC’s Ocala office at 352-732-1225 between 8 a.m. and 5 p.m., weekdays. The Ocala Conservation Center is located about 8.5 miles north of SR 40 off CR 314 in the Ocala National Forest.

This is the 16th year the FWC and its local sponsors have been holding these derbies for children. They would not be possible without the strong support of our partners, including Fish Florida, Pulte Homes, U.S. Forest Service, Conrad Tree Surgeons, Miller’s Boating Center, Spruce Creek Fishing Club, Silver River Marine Institute, Advantage Sports – Salt Springs, Marion County Parks and Recreation Department, Central Florida Dog Hunters Association, Bass Pro Shops – Outdoor World Orlando and the many volunteers who spend their time helping the kids during these derbies.