Hamburg's Fishing Rodeo catches more than 400 participants

Item photo by Kolleen Long Hundreds of children, with their families, lined the banks of the Hamburg Game Association's fishing pond the weekend of May 17 and 18. Children were invited to fish for free at the event, and reeled in a combined total of 598 trout.
Item photo by Kolleen Long Debra Kline (left) logs in a fish caught by eight-year-old Nathaniel Donne at the weekend Fishing Rodeo. His 12.5 inch rainbow trout was the first fish of the Sunday afternoon session.

Fish were flying at the annual Fishing Rodeo sponsored by the Hamburg Game Association. Local children, from age 1 to 15, were invited catch up to two trout per day, enjoy complimentary hot dogs and birch beer, and win prizes at the free event.

Association member Debra Kline helped organize this year’s rodeo. “It’s the club’s community service,” she explained. “It’s what we do for the community, for the kids.”

The Fishing Rodeo was held on the club’s North Fifth Street property on Saturday and Sunday, May 17 and 18. They worked with S-A Trout Pond, Orwigsburg, to stock 1,700 pounds of trout on the site, member Kevin Snyder explained. They also selected 31 trophy fish, measuring 20 inches or more, for the tournament.

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By midday on Sunday, Snyder noted, few of the trophies had been lured to shore. “They had quite a few of them hooked, but only one in so far,” he explained.

Three prizes were awarded each day in four different age groups, and a cash prize was awarded to the child with the largest combined score of the weekend. Prizes were also given for the day’s smallest fish caught by a girl and boy as well as to the child snagging the first fish for both morning and afternoon sessions each day. Eight-year-old Nathaniel Donne pulled in the first fish, a 12.5 inch rainbow trout, on Sunday afternoon. He looked on eagerly as his catch was measured, beaming with pride.

A few minutes later, brothers Jacob and Thomas Stump brought more fish to be logged. It was their second day of fishing for their family, the boys’ mother noted, and they were eager to go home and eat what they caught.

Throughout the weekend, rodeo attendees devoured almost 150 pounds of hot dogs and two full barrels of birch beer. Additional concessions were available, and themed-baskets and door prizes were offered as raffles. Prices were low and any proceeds were put toward next year’s rodeo expenses. Local companies help support the event, donating everything from bottled water and hot dogs to bait, fishing rods and other prizes.

About 1,300 people are part of the Hamburg Game Association, and about 25 of those volunteer for each day of the rodeo. For over 30 years, those volunteers worked under the direction of member Gloria Wetzel.

“As a child,” Wetzel recalled, “I came up here [for the rodeo] and they only gave a prize to the biggest fish caught by a boy, and the biggest fish caught by a girl.” She paused, then grinned. “And I won.”

Ever since, Wetzel said, she was “hooked.” She fished at the rodeo throughout her childhood, then became a volunteer and eventually ran the event. She recently asked Winger to take over as event chair, but Wetzel still happily participates. And she is not the only long-term volunteer. Annie and Maria Postupak volunteered again at this year’s rodeo, continuing a long-time family tradition started by their father. Although neither sister lives in the Hamburg area anymore, they return to help out each spring. “I come up for this every year,” Annie confirmed from her spot at the fish-measuring station.

“It’s great to see every kid excited,” added another volunteer, Michele Rumble. A professional photographer, Rumble spent the weekend snapping shots of proud parents, wriggling fish and, of course, the happy children who caught them.

“It’s for the kids,” Wetzel said as other volunteers nodded. “To see them have a good time and just to encourage them to fish.”

John Wetzel, Gloria’s husband, is another long-time volunteer. “It’s been very interesting for me to watch, over 30 years, what it’s grown to be today,” he said, surveying the families gathered around the shore line.

Brandon Miller and Justin Schaner helped man the event’s clean-a-fish station, charging just fifty cents a fish. Both men fished the rodeo as children and, in fact, Schaner’s daughter is now a participant. The two men cheerfully gutted fish after fish, letting willing youngsters help with the messy process.

“My dad and mom used to bring me. It was a good time, the best memories,” Miller recalled. Three years ago, he added, his mother recruited him to help and he’s been working the gutting station ever since.

Membership is not required to fish at the rodeo. Kline noted people come from Hamburg as well as from New Jersey and New York. One year, a family vacationing from the West coast also joined the rodeo.

On Saturday, 230 youngsters reeled in a total of 331 fish. Winners were as follows: for age 1 to 5, first was Elias Calderone, second was Kylie Smith and third was Cassandra Stump; for ages 6 to 8, first was Destiny Myzloom , second was Alea Mertz, and third was Zachary Peters; for ages 9 to 11 first was Mason Krantz, second was Jasmine Thomas, and third was Mackenzie Schaner; and for ages 12 to 15, first was Marcus Mozloom, second was Tia Stunk, and third was Michael Withelder. The girl who caught the smallest fish was Navely Sites (12 ¼ inch) and Braedyn Weidenhammer, with 11 ¾ inch, was the boy with the smallest fish.

On Sunday, 177 children snagged another 267 fish. Winners were as follows: for age 1 to 5, first was Shayla Marklinger, second was Benjamin Kroner and third was Mckenna Fritz; for ages 6 to 8, first was Dustyn Sweitzer, second was Iris Stemko , and third was Jade Meckes; for ages 9 to 11 first was Autumn Lawrence, second was Joshua Sites, and third was Luke Cuosochio; and for ages 12 to 15, first was Al Proctor, second was Tyler Williams, and third was Kayla Sobonilla. The smallest fish on Sunday were caught by Mckenna Fritz (11 inches) and Bradley Spatz (11 ½ inches).

The rodeo’s grand-prize went to Joshua Sites for highest total of inches caught, a score created by adding the measurements of the maximum allotment of four fishes, two per day. Joshua’s total was a whopping 60 ¾ inches. This $50 prize is given in memory of past member Gerry Stewart by his wife, Jeanie. Each year, the winner’s name is added to a plaque hung in the club house.

The Hamburg Game Association is located at 935 North 5th St., Hamburg. In addition to the Fishing Rodeo, they sponsor other events for children including a Christmas party and Easter-egg hunt. They also hold archery and trap shoots. For more information about the association, readers may call 610-562-3532.