by Andrew Garda
Any fisherman will tell you that every day is a perfect day to fish, but last Saturday, as Montclair’s Annual Kids’ Fishing Derby kicked off, Lynne Williams couldn’t have asked for a better day. The sun was shining, the weather was balmy and the fish were biting.
The president of the Montclair Police Athletic League has been part of the efforts to put on a special day for Montclair’s kids to fish for years now, and it continues to grow both in terms of participation, as well as organizational involvement.
“Last year we had about 70 kids preregistered,” she said. “I lost count and ran out of paper with the walk ups.”
Estimates for Saturday’s derby reached over 100 participants.
Michael Bateman, co-president of the Montclair Police Foundation, took on the job of getting the Edgemont Pond stocked with fish, which happened this year on Tuesday, July 10. Like many fathers and mothers, he brought his son Brooks, age nine, to reel in some fish Saturday.
“We’ve got a lot of moms and dads with their kids, the lawn chairs are out and it’s going to be a fun day,” he said just before the event kicked off. “It’s a good community outreach. This is what we need to do more of, in my opinion.”
Bateman’s organization is just one of several who have joined in the derby effort. When Lynne Williams first put it together, it was held at the pond in Yantacaw Brook Park. Her husband, Tyrone Williams, is the Commander of the Montclair Police Department’s Community Service Unit.
“Fish and Wildlife used to come out and stock the pond,” he said. “They’d bring a truck, and then the kids would help to stock the pond before the derby. Budget cuts stopped that, but we were fortunate enough to get sponsors.”
Sponsors and helping hands. Of course, Commander Williams’ unit took part and the event moved to Edgemont Park. They were then joined by groups like the Policeman’s Benevolent Association, the Montclair Anglers Association and the Eureka Lodge.
Each group handles an aspect of the organization and execution of the day.
The Police Benevolent Association used to handle stocking the pond, but this year took over getting juice water and ice for the participants, while the Eureka Lodge handled lunch. The Police Athletic League handles registration, overall management and acts as the point people for the event. The anglers put together bait, supply the trophies and handle a safety briefing.
Lynne Williams calls it a “total team effort.” No debate about who did what, no jockeying for credit — just a massive effort to put the best day together for the kids.
“Really, the town is benefiting,” she said. “All the organizations are contributing, and helping each other out to provide service to the kids.”
A service which lasts beyond Saturday. Families can come any time and fish at Edgemont Park. The fish are always there and anyone can come by to catch and release their fill of bass, sun fish and catfish. The group who stocks the pond said that eventually, it won’t need to be stocked anymore and, in fact, many of the fish caught on Saturday are fish who have adapted and survived from last year.
“I run Montclair Grass Roots Summer Camp,” Lynne Williams said. “They’re coming to do some catch and release fishing too next week. The Anglers are going to do a one hour fishing class for the campers.”