When the horn sounded shortly after 9 a.m. on July 21, 48 young anglers from Watertown and the surrounding area cast their lines into the Crow River to kick off the 20th annual Rails to Trails Kids’ Fishing Contest.
Their goal was to catch the largest fish of the day, and contest organizers estimated that they brought about 30 fish to the measuring table during the 90 minutes of fishing time allowed.
"At times we’ve been flooded out," said contest coordinator Kurt Beckstrom, "and other times the river was so low, you wondered whether the kids would even catch one fish. But this year the water level and flow rate were about as good as you could want."
The river’s near perfect conditions meant the anglers caught species rarely seen during the midsummer event.
"Four or five largemouth bass came to the measuring table," said Beckstrom, "and the kids caught several good-size shorthead redhorse suckers.
"Redhorse are beautiful fish that mainly eat insect larvae and other invertebrates. From what we saw with the contest, it looks like they’re doing pretty well in the Crow River, and that’s good to see."
Top anglers in the 10 and under age division were Brady May, with a 17-inch redhorse; Leanna May, who caught a 10.5-inch channel catfish and Isaac Tesch, with a 6.5-inch bluegill.
In the 11 to 15 division, Ryan Russek caught the largest redhorse, a 17.75 incher. Nick Grams’ 9.5-inch channel catfish was the largest caught in this category, while Mason Krueger’s 11-inch largemouth bass took first place in the "other species" category.
In the traditional post-contest random door-prize drawing, Hailee Rosentreter won the Grand Prize, a fully-stocked Plano three-drawer tackle box. In addition, the young entrants won prizes ranging from rod-and-reel combos to gift certificates from local businesses to 12 packs of soft drinks.
"The support we get from merchants who donate prizes for the contest has been amazing," said Beckstrom. "I can’t thank them enough. In fact, for the first time this year, every youngster who participated won something in the drawing."
This year’s sponsors include Denny’s Barber Shop, Watertown Food & Fuel, Watertown Rod And Gun Club, Watertown Pharmacy, Crow River Coffee, Marketplace Foods, Movie Scene, Geneo’s Pizza, Bremer Bank, Cabin Fever Sporting Goods, Inspections Solutions of Edina and the Westonka Jaycees.