Punderson Kids’ Fishing Derby! Children’s Smiles Melt Hearts & the Snow

The annual Fishing Derby at Punderson State Park has always occurred in coincidence with the stocking of the lake with trout. This gives the kids FIRST chance, as well as a very good chance to catch some fish especially if they have never been fishing before. In the history of the Derby, we were informed that it has never been cancelled or rescheduled due to the weather, and today we were reminded of the reason why. (Pictured below our youngest participant with a 12.5″ catch)

For some, fishing may be a one weekend event during the summer. For others it is a beloved pastime that can be passed down to others as well as memorable experience. Many avid fishermen (and women) will battle the elements for the opportunity to reel in their favorite catch. Today proved that regardless of the weather and maybe even some doubtful expectations, dedicated individuals were prepared and willing to share this with their children. (Pictured below was our first catch of the day)


Participants came armed with layers of clothing and snowsuits – a bit of a change from the last two years that had warm weather! Hand warmers, hot cocoa and coffee were available along with donuts, cookies, and snacks to get people going although most were too busy fishing to partake!


This year, Flambeau donated tackle boxes which every registered participating child received. Gander Mountain, Mentor, came out and provided the bait, fishing experts, three rod/reel packs with tackle to raffle off and the hot dogs! Their volunteers (dressed in orange) came down and shoveled snow, helped get fires started and helped salt the sidewalks and docks. We cannot thank these two businesses enough for their support.


Fishing Derby Results (sorry if names are spelled wrong) – We judged this based on largest fish caught – If a child had caught three larger fish than the second place person but was already awarded first place, the next child with a largest fish got the next award to keep it as fair as possible. Additionally, the Largest Fish Award did not duplicate for the division First Place which we awarded to the next largest fish. Smallest fish was awarded as the smallest fish. Children were given Gold, Silver and Bronze medals this year. Ties were all awarded as ties.

Ages 3-4
First Place – Trevor Schaeffer – 12.5″

Ages 5-7
First Place – Jayden Kainec – 12.5″
Second Place – Isabella Taylor – 12″
Third Place – Eric Nemunaitis – 11.25″

Ages 8-9
First Place – Ronnie Fratoe – 13″
Second Place (Tie) – Carmen Fratoe – 12.25″
Second Place (Tie) – Hunter McElwain – 12.25″
Third Place – Joshua Nemunaitis – 10.75″

Ages 10-11
Largest Fish of Derby – Charlie Clayson – 13.75″
First Place – Austin McElwain – 12.25″
Second Place (Tie) – Allison Batchelder – 11.75″
Second Place (Tie) – Thomas Olsieski – 11.75″
(only four children in this age division with fish, no third awarded)

Ages 12-13
First Place (Tie) – Leo McElwain – 11.25″
First Place (Tie) – Jacob Nemunaitis – 11.25″
Second Place – Jacob Reed – 11″
(only three children in this age range with fish, no third awarded)

Ages 14-15
First Place – Tyler Barr – 13″
Second Place – Will Lehman – 11.75″
Third Place – Brandon Lisk – 11.5″
Smallest Fish of Derby – Will Lehman – 8″

Although we had a good turnout, we realize many registrants did not venture out today to participate. Because of this, and the generosity of the donations we received to put this event on for an expected 80 or more participants, we plan to host another fishing event (in hopes of better weather) to encourage fishing, however this may be a more educational event as the ability to catch a fish will not be as likely as it was today. Generally, once the derby has concluded, the park has to open fishing to the public, in which as we saw today as we were packing up, the docks became crowded by adults and the boats started to go in.

To see more pictures from this event, plus the latest updates and other events from the Friends of Punderson please Like/Follow on our Facebook page or sign up for our newsletter below. We wanted everyone to have a good time today and food, beverages and hand warmers were provided at no cost. If you would like to see more events like this at Punderson, please support us by making a donation, offering to volunteer, or become a member.

Thank you to Punderson State Park, the Division of Wildlife, Department of Natural Resources, Flambeau, Gander Mountain, Punderson Manor Resort, our dedicated volunteers and everyone who came out today to fish.