The Hamburg Game and Fish Association welcomed children from Hamburg and surrounding communities during its 62nd annual Fishing Rodeo on Saturday and Sunday, May 18 and 19.

The top fisher for the weekend was Jace Warnick, whose four trout totaled 67.5 inches. Jace’s name will be engraved on a plaque posted in the association’s club house.

Event organizer Deb Kline was pleased with the sunny weather and blue skies that graced this year’s event.

“It’s perfect,” she said Saturday morning as she surveyed the crowd along the banks. “It’s not hot, it’s not cold, it’s not drizzing. It’s going to be a perfect weekend.”

Exactly 166 children fished on that first day, among them 7-year-old Layah Wesner of Hamburg. She brought her trout up to be measured midday on Saturday and beamed with pride at the result: 21.5 inches. Layah attended the rodeo after running in the Blue Mountain Wildlife race earlier that day.

“It was crazy,” she said about pulling in her hefty fish, which was her second trout caught that day. She hoped to come back and try for more fish on Sunday.

A few minutes later, Parker Smith, age 5, brought up her own fish to be measured. Smith stared at her fish, held in a net, as her grandmother, Jean Heyer, talked about the family’s enjoyment of the rodeo.

“We missed it last year,” the Straustown resident said, “but the year before that her sister won first place.”

In all, 234 fish were caught on day one. On Sunday, 156 youngsters came to fish, catching a total of 193 trout.

Kaylie and Zach Kellers brought their 17-month-old, Gabe, to the rodeo on Sunday. They were accompanied by Zach’s dad, Scott Zellers.

This was Gabe’s first time fishing, and Kaylie was pleased to renew the tradition with her first-born.

“Zach and I both went to the rodeo since we were little,” she said, and although Gabe was ultimately unsuccessful in bringing in a trout, the toddler still had a lot of fun.

“He liked running around with the other kids and the free hot dog,” Kaylie confirmed, and, “I liked the benches! And, of course, watching Gabe at his first fishing rodeo.”

The annual free event is only for children, up to age 15. Adults are welcome to assist and cheer, but participants must reel in their own fish and can catch two trout each day. The club stocked their tree-lined pond with trout, lots and lots of trout, in the week preceding the event. This year, 1,600 pounds of trout were placed in the pond, including 40 fish that were 20 inches or longer and a special selection of golden trout.

Kline had prizes ready for each child who successfully caught a golden trout. New this year, the club also provided a scale to weigh bigger fish. And, as in years past, lots of awards were available for children including random door prizes announced periodically throughout the day.

Volunteers, Kline acknowledged, are key to the event. Club members staffed the registration table, measured trout, cleaned the fish and handed out prizes. The food stand, which provided free hot dogs and drinks to children and low-priced snacks to all, was run by Hamburg Area High School’s Wilderness Club, each member wearing a neon orange club shirt.

Days of work go into preparing the event, but volunteers agree that work is worthwhile as it is for children. Kline said she hopes youngsters will catch a love of fishing and outdoor activities after coming to the Hamburg rodeo.

To build enthusiasm, many prizes are awarded to the young anglers. A favorite is the award for the smallest fish caught by a boy and girl each day. This year, the honors went to Hannah Berk and Kenneth Fisher on Saturday and to Lily Rudy and Keon Heng on Sunday.

On Saturday, winners in the age 1 to 5 category were Jace Warnic (first), Clyde Stufflet (second) and a tie between Parker Smith and Jace Smith (third). Other winners that day were ages 6 to 8: Laylah Wessner, Maybell Weller and Bailey Garis; ages 9 to 11: Zerick Enoch, Peyton Smith and Kaden Shappell; ages 12 to 15: RJ Williams, Christian Brown and Chis Shobe.

On Sunday, winners were ages 1 to 5: Selina Linderman, Jewlyet Hoppes and Harland Hoppes; ages 6 to 8: Katy Heim, Matthew Gring and Sofia Stout; ages 9 to 11: Carter Riegel, Deondre Thomas and Abigail Kissling; ages 12 to 15: Jacob Stump, Christian Brown and Tyler Geist.

The Hamburg Fish and Game Association holds events year-round for children, youth and adults on their property, 935 5th Street, Hamburg, Pa. For more information, call 610-562-3532 or follow on Facebook at www.fb.com/HamburgGame.

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