The annual MS4
Kid’s Fishing Derby at Indian Springs Park in Porter was larger than ever
this year--and so was the winning fish.
Wyatt Bussema, 11,
was using a yellow spincast rod and reel combo borrowed from the Porter Park
Department’s stock of gear that was outfitted with a simple live bait rig
consisting of a gold Aberdeen style hook, pinch-on sinker, and spring bobber
when he set a derby record.
Kids age six to 12
participated in the derby, starting at 8 a.m. on Wednesday, June 20. A total
of 28 fish and three turtles were caught. Kids were divided into two age
divisions. Those six to eight-years old fished in the bluegill division, and
those age nine to 12 fished in the bass division. The kids fished from about
9 to 11 a.m. then got a free lunch of hotdogs donated by George’s Gyros,
chips, cookies, and fresh fruit.
Among the 40 some
kids catching bluegill and crappie on bobber rigs, some could be seen
chucking lures like Bill Lewis Rat-L-Traps and black and chartreuse ribbon
tail plastic worms in hopes of landing America’s favorite sportfish--the
largemouth bass. Wyatt stuck with live bait, using the waxworms that were
provided free to all derby participants.
doubled-over around 10 a.m., and a crowd quickly formed to watch him fight a
mystery fish that swirled just below the surface. Largemouth Bass are known
for flinging themselves out of the water and escaping with ferocious
headshakes that dislodge lures to send them flying in another direction, but
Wyatt’s fish buried itself in a clump of weeds near the shore, where it
wouldn’t budge for a while. Wyatt wasn’t sure if the fish was still there,
so he lowered the tip of his rod and stopped reeling. The line leading into
the weeds kept moving, so Wyatt kept reeling, and Porter Parks Director
Brian Bugajski ran for a net.
Wyatt landed a
17.5-inch bass to win his age division in the derby, claim the day’s biggest
fish, and claim the largest fish that has been recorded in the four years
the derby has run. No one was able to weigh Wyatt’s bass, but In-Fisherman
Magazine’s bass length-to-weight conversion chart shows that a 17.5-inch
bass is typically three pounds.
It turns out the
bass wasn’t interested in the waxworms--Wyatt had been reeling in a small
bluegill, and the bass found that much more attractive. The bluegill evaded
capture because it slid up the line when the bass struck, so Wyatt actually
caught two fish with one cast.
Wyatt told the
Chesterton Tribune that he used to fish a lot more because he used to
live on a property that had a pond, but he has since moved. Wyatt’s
grandfather, Carl Bussema, said that Wyatt’s first thought was actually not
that he wanted to catch a bunch of fish, but he wanted to help his brother
Leo, 8, catch something cool. Carl Bussema thought the derby would be a good
change of pace and a good way to get the boys outdoors. He also appreciated
that all the gear was provided.
Bugajski said the
Porter County Park Department secured a Go Fish grant from the Indiana
Department of Natural Resources a few years ago, and they shared some of
that money with Porter. That funding combined with ongoing support from the
Town of Chesterton Storm Water Utility and the Town of Porter Storm
Water/MS4 Program allowed him to purchase rod and reel combos that the Town
owns and uses for the derby every year. Bugajski said he had 42 kids
registered for the derby, which is double the number of previous years. The
derby is hosted by the Park Department with added support from the DNR,
Porter Fire Department, and the Northwest Indiana Steelheaders.
DNR officials Randy
Brindza and Maggie Burgdorf were on hand to answer questions from the kids
and talk to them about fish identification and conservation. To aid in the
process, they brought a tank of fish that they captured from Trail Creek
near their District 10 headquarters in Michigan City. Among the fish in the
tank were bluegill, channel catfish, largemouth bass, redear sunfish,
warmouth, and one large male bowfin--males are easily identifiable by a
peacock spot on their tails. Brindza said the fish would be carted back to
Trail Creek and released later that day.
Indiana Steelheaders were on hand to help kids fish, and they provided
medals for the winners. The winners in each division also won prizes ranging
from fishing go-packs with bobbers and sunglasses to new rod and reel combos
complete with fishing starter kits.
Six winners who had
the biggest fish were chosen from each age division. Behind Wyatt in the
bass age division was Benjamin Hernandez, who landed the second largest fish
of the day, a 10-inch bass. In third, fourth, fifth, and sixth places
respectively were Audrey Rudzinski, Lexi Shereve, Riley Dodd, and Jiselle
order, the winners of the bluegill division were as follows: Carter
Rudzinski, Bella Schirripa, Mia Schirripa, Myles Ledgerwood, Leah Shereve,
and Kaius Brown.