KINGSTON TWP. — When 5-year-old Elijah Bagley darted up to Kingston Township Police Officer Martin Maransky and gave him a high-five, it was clear that the fishing derby hosted by the Back Mountain Police Association was a hit.
The event, now in its eighth year, was held at Frances Slocum State Park on Saturday and gave kids a chance not only to catch trout, but to meet those whose job it is to serve and protect. The derby attracted 120 children ages 5 through 10 who fished in a section of the lake that was fenced off and stocked with 1,000 trout.
Away from the water, the Nanticoke Conservation Club conducted a fishing instruction program for the kids, who also participated in t-shirt art, fire prevention education and watched a K-9 demonstration.
And through it all, the children got to mingle with law enforcement personnel from numerous municipalities and agencies.
That was one of two goals behind the day.
“We want to give kids an opportunity to interact with law enforcement officers and understand they don’t need to be scared,” said Ross Piazza, a deputy waterways conservation officer with the Pennsylvania Fish and Boat Commission and vice president of the Back Mountain Police Association. “This also promotes fishing as an outdoor family activity that isn’t expensive to do.”
The fishing provided a fun atmosphere for the kids to meet the police, who helped them bait hooks and reel in fish. For many of the kids, the event gave them their first opportunity to catch a trout.
That was one reason why 8-year-old Jason Juice walked around with a smile seemingly as wide as the 16-inch brook trout he landed.
“I knew it was big when I felt it tugging,” he said. “That was my first trout and I want to go again.”
Waterways Conservation Officer John Cummings spent the morning visiting area lakes that were part of the PFBC’s Mentored Youth Fishing Program before stopping by the event at Frances Slocum.
“There are a lot of opportunities for kids today,” Cummings said. “With this event, it really works because the fishing puts the kids in a good place and to have the police officers help really makes it a good situation.”
Maransky, who is president of the association, said members spend all day Friday setting up for the derby and most of the day Sunday cleaning up. Following the kids derby on Saturday the fishing area was opened to veterans in the Wounded Warrior program to cast a line.
The derby and all activities, including lunch, were offered at no cost thanks to donations from businesses and individuals, along with the prizes that were awarded to every child.
“We enjoy doing this and seeing the kids get excited,” Maransky said, after he returned Bagley’s high-five. “It’s fun for us to be able to interact with the kids and their parents on a positive note. The kids see us in uniform, helping them fish, and that fear factor is gone.”
Bagley’s mother, Jennifer, agreed with Maransky’s assessment and plans on bringing her family back to the derby next year.
“This is one of the best ways to integrate kids with law enforcement,” she said. “Children can be afraid of the uniform and the badge, but this teaches them that the police are there to help and it lessens that stress.”