Elks Annual Youth Fishing Derby Takes Place In Fort Smith

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The hot temperatures didn’t stop more than 75 participants from registering for the Elks Annual Youth Fishing Derby Saturday (Aug. 23).

“I’m really excited, I already caught two fish,” participant Luke Haynes said.

The competition is an event for children 12 and under. This is also the third year a special needs division has been open for those ages 18 and younger.

“There’s not many things in Fort Smith for special needs except for Special Olympics and things like that, and our Exalted Ruler Jan Stone suggested that we incorporate special needs,” Carl Debose, Elks Lodge #341 Youth Coordinator said.

“We wrote a grant to fund all this, and every year, we expand on it, and this year, our expansion included independent living,” Stone said.

Even if kids didn’t catch any fish, they could still win a bicycle in a raffle.

“We have some really cool fishing gear that we’re going to give away to the [child who caught the] smallest fish, the largest fish and the most fish, you’re gonna get a tackle [box] and a fishing rod,” Stone said.

Organizers say the fishing derby is an event for the entire family.

“It’s really neat whenever you are walking down the sidewalk, and you see a little child beside grandpa, you know, telling them what to do and how to hold the pole,” Stone said.

Kids got to keep any fish they caught. The Fish Hatchery in Mena donated all the fish thrown into the lake the day prior to the event. Donations and a $2,000 grant made the whole fishing derby possible.