2017-06-22 / Outdoors

3,500 fish stocked for 13th Kids’ Fishing Day

By Jay Bushen
Of The Enterprise staff

JAMES GARAVAGLIA of the Grand Traverse Band shares a laugh with Ashlyn Eckler of Suttons Bay during the 2016 Kids’ Fishing Day at Veronica Valley Park. JAMES GARAVAGLIA of the Grand Traverse Band shares a laugh with Ashlyn Eckler of Suttons Bay during the 2016 Kids’ Fishing Day at Veronica Valley Park. Hundreds of families and a whole lot of happy kids will round up rods and reels Sunday as Kids’ Fishing Day returns to Veronica Valley Park from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m.

The free and family-friendly event figures to draw another big crowd after bringing in nearly 700 people in 2016.

“There’s certainly others across the state that are fantastic, but this is one that goes above and beyond,” said Heather Hettinger, fisheries biologist with the Department of Natural Resources. “It’s not just fishing; it’s an outdoor family experience. It certainly centers around fishing — we put a lot of effort into making sure that pond is full of fish and accessible to people — but there’s food and hands-on activities like fish painting and the reptile display. It’s just a multifaceted event that’s about getting families and people involved in an outdoor experience.”

Hettinger said some 3,500 bluegills from Laggis’ Fish Farm will be stocked for the 13th annual event, which has served as a model for similar kids’ fishing days across the state.

She plans to bring 150 rods to the event for families without fishing equipment. Worms and some tackle will be available as well, and fly fisherman D.J. Schmidt will be on site to help young anglers learn to fish.

Kids can also take part in fish painting or check out the snakes, frogs, turtles, and other creatures in Jim Kacin’s nature display.

“I have a lot of touch tanks,” Kacin said. “The kids just love it. Most of them have never picked up something like that before. It’s amazing how kids will come in there at the start, and they’ll be there the whole time.”

Leelanau Conservancy docents will be on hand, as well, to provide hiking tours of the park to those interested.

Free “gourmet” hot dogs and pop will be available, as well.

Pete Taylor, who has been heading the event since its inception, expects another big turnout on Sunday.

“We don’t advertise outside of Leelanau County,” Taylor said. “We could go to Traverse City and put up fliers and do some radio and we’d probably get more people out there, but that’s never been our goal. Our goal has been to make it a local event for the kids to come learn how to fish and enjoy the day with their families.”

No license is required to fish.

Veronica Valley Park is located on Lake Leelanau Drive (Co. Road 641) about 5.5 miles south of M-204.

Families have been known to show up early and stay all four hours.

“It’s definitely the largest kids’ fish day that I work,” Hettinger said. “It seems huge. We get 600 people that show up to this event, and not just kids. The beauty of that is that we’ve got such a beautiful park and such a nice area and so many things going on that it never seems crowded.

“There’s always something to do.”

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