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Chris French
Mike Roberts

We’re in the month of Derby days


One of my fondest memories as a child growing up in Meriden was fishing. While the Quinnipiac River was right in our front yard in the Village of South Meriden, Mirror Lake was only a short bus ride away and we spent many fun-filled days on the shore of Mirror Lake.

And then once a year the Meriden Rod & Gun Club would hold its annual Children’s Fishing Derby at Hubbard Park. The lake would be stocked with trout and their would be one bruiser of a trout that had a tag on it, and whoever caught the tagged trout would win a brand new bicycle.

Back then there were no electronic gizmos that would take a child away from the great outdoors, so the shoreline would be filled to capacity with eager youngsters and every one of them was fishing. Each entrant would also be able to receive a free hotdog and soda to keep them fueled up for the fishing.

The contests were always held rain or shine and the attendance was always in the high numbers. However, like I said, there were a lot less diversions than the kids have today.

Over the years, the Meriden Rod & Gun Club and the City of Meriden have partnered together to keep this annual event going and it has been an up and down roller coaster ride much of the time. The event was switched from Mirror Lake to Baldwins Pond and, for a while, it seemed to work out quite well. Over the years, various dates were tried. Some of them worked and some of them did not.

The Children’s Fishing Derby was switched to June, but by then a heavy weed growth on the Baldwin Pond shore and other obligations for the children began to take their toll and the numbers of children dropped dramatically.

Two years ago, the Children’s Fishing Derby was again moved to Mirror Lake in Hubbard Park and even though we had a rainy day, the contest showed an increased number of participating children and a new venture for area children was formed.

Last year was the second year of the return of the Children’s Fishing Derby to Mirror Lake in Hubbard Park and its success was phenomenal! Children and parents turned out in force for the fishing derby. They even had a couple of carp anglers on hand to show the kids the sporting side of carp fishing and they even allowed a couple of the kids to reel in carp that they had caught. The state DEEP Department of Inland Fisheries became interested in Mirror Lake and a number of Inland Fisheries personnel were on hand to see the derby.

Since then, our Parks and Recreation Department and those that oversee its operation have partnered with the DEEP Inland Fisheries in making Mirror Lake even more appealing for families with children, and so far it has been a huge success. One only had to see the Daffodil Children’s Fishing Derby to see that to be a fact.

To date, the Inland Fisheries has stocked trout into Mirror Lake and this month the lake is scheduled to receive a stocking of channel catfish, a species that can grow quite large and should offer up some exciting fishing opportunities for both young and old alike.

Be sure and mark this coming Saturday, May 10, on your calendar because that is the date set for the Meriden Rod & Gun Club/City of Meriden Annual Children’s Fishing Derby at Mirror Lake in beautiful Hubbard Park.

The contest is free and open to all children ages 15 and younger. Registration starts at 9 a.m. and the contest runs from 10 a.m. noon. The Meriden Rod & Gun Club will be providing free hotdogs and soft drinks for participants and the prize table will be loaded with all kinds of prizes for some lucky children.

May 10 is also Free Fishing Day in Connecticut and this gives adults who have not purchased a CT Fishing License a chance to try their hand at fishing even though they do not have a fishing license. Keep in mind, though, that this free fishing is a one-day happening and if an adult fishes without a license after May 10, they will be given a summons.

So far, reports coming out regarding fishing at Mirror Lake have been on the positive side. Skip Sauer, who loves fishing at Mirror Lake for the giant carp it holds, reports that his grandchildren Emmy, Sydney and Matt have done quite well with the trout in Mirror Lake. Matt caught two at the Daffodil Festival Children’s Fishing Derby and the girls and grandpa each took two on one of their outings, with Emmy landing a rainbow trout that weighed in at one pound, 13 ounces.

So, don’t forget. We’ll see you and the kids at Mirror Lake in Hubbard Park next Saturday, May 10 for a really great time fishing Mirror Lake in the Annual Children’s Fishing. Plenty of free hotdogs, soft drinks and prizes. Registration starts at 9 a,m. And the event will take place rain or shine. See you there!

So far the weather has been all over the place regarding the fishing. However, I would have to believe that we are now over the worst of the bad weather and should begin enjoying some nice sunny, springlike weather as we progress into the merry month of May.

TURKEY HUNTING

Keep in mind that May is also turkey hunting season and many camouflaged hunters will be out and about in the morning hours trying to put a tag or two on some wild turkeys. While I have to believe that the past two winters have taken a toll on some of the area turkeys, there are still plenty of them out there.

For the uninitiated, turkey hunting has become as much a spring event as trout fishing. While reports of wild turkeys hanging around some folks’ yards do come across our desk from time to time, they are not that easy to harvest when you are after them one-on-one in the woods.

Many times, especially during the early portion of the turkey season, the toms (male turkeys) are still “henned up” (staying in close proximity to female wild turkeys in the woods so they can breed them) and are not all that susceptible to a hunters imitation of a hen in need call.

As I said earlier, the male wild turkey is quite chauvinistic when it comes to “dating” the hen of his dreams. In the world of the wild turkey, unlike the human world, the hen generally comes running to the king of the woods, the male wild turkey. Not always, but generally. In my many years of hunting wild turkey, I have seen just about every scenario possible.

I have had hens come to my calling, and if I have a hen turkey decoy out, start to bully the decoy as if to say, “Get out of my area you $%#* and leave my man alone.”

Of course, this type of behavior can also get the male turkey excited and he will come strutting over to watch two females battle over him. After all, he is a male, right ladies?

Over the years, I have had male turkeys, sometimes even a group of them, come to my turkey calling and, other times, they will answer my calls with some serious gobbling, but they want the hen to come to them.

I really love being in the woods when trying to entice an old tom into my area. There is just something about being on his turf and being able to outsmart him — sometimes!

I remember one wise old tom turkey that I could get to answer my calls just about every morning I hunted him. But that was as far as it went, I would call and he would gobble back but “demand” that the hen come to him.

This went on for most of the hunting season and then I decided to do something different. I snuck into the turkey woods under cover of darkness, trying to get as close to his roosting area as possible without disturbing him.

Like clockwork, as soon as the first light of morning started to break on the horizon, the tom let out with a couple of booming gobbles. I wanted to answer him back with my hen call so bad I could hardly control myself, but I did not answer him.

He gobbled on and off for about a half an hour and I would not answer him. Finally, I heard the flapping of his wings as he flew down to the ground and then I gave out the one of the softest hen calls I could and then waited.

He immediately gobbled back, but I refused to answer him. Eventually, curiosity got the best of that old tom and he started to sneak in my direction, looking for the hen that he had heard only once. He made a fine Thanksgiving dinner.

ST. JUDE EVENTS

The New Haven Raccoon Club, 853 New Haven Road (Rte 17), Durham will host a King Of The Hill Trap Shoot and a .22 rifle shoot on the club grounds May 10th from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. and a 3-D Archery Shoot on May 18th from 7 a.m. to noon.

Breakfast and lunch will be available both days. All proceeds go to St, Jude Children’s Research Hospital.

That’s it gang, see ya’ and God Bless America and watch over our troops wherever they may be.



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