Anglers fish the breakwall at Great Lakes Memorial Marina during the M&M Great Lakes Sport Fishermen Kids’ Derby Saturday. EagleHerald/Jody Korch
Anglers fish the breakwall at Great Lakes Memorial Marina during the M&M Great Lakes Sport Fishermen Kids’ Derby Saturday. EagleHerald/Jody Korch
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MENOMINEE - The track record for enjoying the great outdoors hasn't exactly been stellar over the past month and half but Mother Nature redeemed herself Saturday for Michigan's Free Fishing Weekend and the Kids' Fishing Derby in Menominee.

The State of Michigan offers free fishing weekends twice a year, once in February and then again in June.

"It's hugely popular. It's a chance for people who have maybe never fished before to get outdoors and enjoy the sport that is a huge tradition in Michigan," said Michigan DNR spokesperson Sarah Lapshan.

"The more people we can get out there doing it, the better. It's something you can do at any age, it's a great way to connect with nature and this is just really one of those fun things we get to offer each year."

Such an event is almost a no-brainer for Michigan which boasts of 3,000 miles of Great Lakes shoreline, 11,000 inland lakes and some of the best fresh water fishing in the world.

Menominee is fortunate in being located both along Green Bay and the Menominee River, each area offering a variety of species to be caught. No one knows that more than the M&M Great Lakes Sports Fishermen. The local chapter gets into high gear to make this weekend special for kids.

Brian Clairmont is the vice president of the group and also a local fishing guide. When it comes to fishing, it's hard to beat his expertise. Just last week he battled a 56-inch musky in the Menominee River and won.

But Saturday wasn't about his trophy fish, it was about 282 local boys and girls and their dreams of catching a perch, trout or bass. It was about the excitement they got and the stories they would tell.

"I think fishing is a dying sport and I think this is really important to get the kids out there and get them to do a little bit of fishing," he said.

On Wednesday the M&M Great Lakes Sports Fishermen stocked almost 1,100 trout in the Menominee marina to give the kids a shot at landing a fish they could be proud of and also enjoy for dinner.

Did it work? Just ask Erika Beaumont of Peshtigo. She brought her two children Mikey, 5 and Analisa, 7.

"We caught some brown trout. This is their first time at the fishing derby and they're very excited," she said.

Mikey's trout weighed in at .47 pounds.

"It's big," he exclaimed.

What did he use for bait?

"A bobber, a worm and some corn," he said proudly.

Analisa's trout weighed in at .56 pounds. She was unavailable for comment because she didn't want to leave her fishing spot.

Justin Gimbel said he's very proud of his 9-year-old son Joey. The two Menominee fishermen got up early Saturday to pick out their spot.

"Fishing is my favorite sport," said Joey. "I would like to catch a trout."

At the time we found Joey he was at the registration station getting his rock bass weighed it. It measure 71⁄2 inches and weighed .47 pounds.

"I catched him on a worm and, um, it took me a long time to get it all the way from the second dock out here, I was in the middle of the dock," said Joey. "I caught it right on the bridge. I had to walk all the way down."

Joey said he loves going fishing with dad, it's something they've been doing for a couple years now and the fishing tournament just provides an extra level of fun and excitement.

"I think it's a great thing for the kids, we enjoyed it," said Justin Gimbel.

The M&M Great Lakes Sports Fisherman put on a fun-filled day for the kids from stocking the trout to providing a meal and even a great array of prizes, including more than 150 fishing rods/reels, 100 tackle packs and even a new bicycle.

"I love sitting here when a kid gets a brand new rod, they come up to you and the look on their face is absolutely priceless," said Clairmont.

Both Clairmont and Lapshan from the DNR agree that there are so many things competing for kids' time these days, especially video games and other electronics. Fishing is a fun way to get young people outside and enjoying nature.

"People have great memories of getting out there fishing with their families," said Lapshan. "This is a way for people to get to try it for free and hopefully we'll convert some people and they'll see what they're missing."
MENOMINEE - Hundreds of kids, pails of fish and thousands of hot dogs. Sounds like a perfect match for a Saturday morning.

The 28th annual Kids' Fishing Derby was held at Great Lakes Memorial Marina. The M&M Great Lakes Sport Fishermen Club held the free event, which is open to all youths age 13 and under.

The fisherkids caught 49 trout, six rock bass, 28 perch and a variety of others, including 176 gobies.

Dayton Godfrey won the "others" category with a 2.19-pound sucker.

Maverick Poquette caught the biggest trout, a 1.04-pounder.

Sean Holk won the rock bass category with a. 0.53-pounder. Hunter Stritzel caught the biggest perch, an 0.22-pounder.