Hey, gang, tomorrow is the big day for young fishermen in our area.
Tomorrow, May 12, is the Annual Meriden Rod & Gun Club/City of Meriden Children’s Fishing Derby (a.k.a. Carl D’Addario Fishing Derby) on Mirror Lake in Hubbard Park.
For young fishermen, it doesn’t get any better than this. They will have an opportunity to stock trout provided by the CT DEEP Inland Fisheries and be allowed to catch some of them. Bait donated by the Fishin’ Factory of Southington will also be available.
There are also all kinds of prizes for some lucky young fishermen, including some bicycles.
The stocking truck should be there between 8:30-9 a.m. Those in charge of the derby feel “the more, the better.”
The Meriden Rod & Gun Club will also have its two world famous hot dog chefs, Ray Guest and Jim Dubinsky, serving up hotdogs and cold drinks for one and all.
May 12 is also “Free Fishing Day” in Connecticut. Any adult is allowed to fish Mirror Lake after the kids derby, which will run from 10 a.m. to noon.
Originally, Mirror Lake was set up to be a fishing spot for children ages 15 and younger. For many years, this worked quite well. Even as a kid (boy, that was many moons ago) I can remember various sporting organizations holding and contributing to the children’s fishing derbies. There were prizes awarded and those in charge would also stock a tagged trout that would reward the lucky angler who caught it with a new bicycle.
I have so many pleasant memories of fishing Mirror Lake in my younger days. On opening day of trout season, you would have a hard time finding an open area, there were so many kids fishing.
As kids, if we weren’t on the Quinnipiac River fishing, Mirror Lake was our next choice. It was not at all unusual for Mom to make up a picnic lunch and we would all spend the day at Hubbard Park.
Back then, the small pool below the spillway on Mirror Lake had five rafts floating in it for us kids to commandeer and float around on. And, of course, when we tired of that we would fish the lake for trout and panfish.
I guess you could say that I find it amazing that so many changes have taken place over the years regarding fishing at Mirror Lake. Back in the late 1940s, the whole area along the fenced in spillway walk was closed to fishing because it was considered to be a yellow perch breeding area. Where that notion came from I have no idea, but we obeyed our elders when it came to following the rules.
Also amazing is the fact that I can still remember most of the gang that fished Mirror Lake, most of them from the city. There were the Gaffey boys, Billy and Marty, Jack Sears, Don “Bugs” Dutil, Fran Swiatek, Henry Morgan and myself.
Of course, back then we had none of the electronic gadgets that are so prevalent today, so a day of fishing was a perfect way to while away a summer day. We would take the bus from South Meriden to Meriden, get a transfer ticket to the bus from West Main Street that would take us to Hubbard Park and reverse the procedure to get back home, even when we had a stringer of fish to take with us.
The children’s fishing derbies went on for a number of years before being taken over by the Meriden Rod & Gun Club and the City of Meriden. There was only one thing wrong: hardly any kids showed up to fish.
We had entered a new and more difficult time in our society. It seemed that children were no longer safe if they were alone. News reports of children disappearing became more common and many parents did not want their offspring going to a place like Mirror Lake unattended.
Over the years, I did most of my walking at Hubbard Park and I did notice that the shoreline was vacant of just about any children’s fishing activity. Oh, once in a while there might be a parent dutifully standing by while the kids fished, but not too many.
After a couple of years of not seeing any kids fishing Mirror Lake, I went to a City Council meeting and asked that the rules be changed because of our changing times and that a parent or guardian with a child also be allowed to fish.
The Council in its wisdom allowed this to take place and, eventually, I did see a couple of adults fishing with the children, but no where near what it should have been. I was then asked by some senior
citizens to see if Mirror Lake could not be open to them as well, and this too was granted and Mirror Lake started to show some activity.
Then the CT DEEP Inland Fisheries said it wanted to make Mirror Lake a city fishing spot and would stock trout and channel catfish into its waters. This increased the fishing action even more.
While Mirror Lake is overly abundant with stocked trout and catfish — I have caught some of the catfish and trout over the past couple of years — there is also a panfish population of bullheads, yellow
perch, calico bass (crappie), bluegill and some really nice largemouth bass.
However, what was once a closely guarded secret is now public information. Mirror Lake also plays host to some mammoth carp. I’m talking a freshwater fish that can weigh over 30 pounds. I strongly believe that the next Connecticut record for common carp is going to come from Mirror Lake. I have seen one tip the scales at 39 pounds, and 20-pounders are the norm.
Signups for tomorrow’s derby are between 9-10 a.m. There will be plenty of prizes and free hotdogs and soft drinks. The Children’s Fishing Derby will take place rain or shine.
C’mon parents, get the kids into our great outdoors! See ya’ and God Bless Bless America and watch over our troops wherever they may be serving our country.