Bouncing up to the scale with her prize clutched tightly between two tiny hands, Breanna Lewandowski’s ear-to-ear grin was absolutely infectious.
The 8-year-old fisherman had just become the first to land a fish at the 33rd annual Kids Fishing Derby in Oak Harbor Saturday and it didn’t matter that her catch was barely three inches long.
She was ecstatic. And dedicated.
A slip and few sloshes later, the fish was weighed and Lewandowski was back at her post with a line in the water. She was going to catch many more, she said confidently, as this wasn’t her first time fishing.
“I think I was 3 when I first started,” she said matter-of-factly.
Lewandowski was one of 120 children who participated in the derby, according to Lori Rhodenbaugh, derby committee chair. A count that included parents was never tallied but she estimated the total crowd at more than 250.
“That got a little exciting for us,” Rhodenbaugh said. “Last year we had 58.”
It was the best turnout in recent memory. Organizers say the unusually large crowd was a result of the nice weather and fliers handed out at the Forth of July parade.
Whatever the case, attendance was great and everywhere you looked people were smiling and having fun.
“This is fantastic,” said Valerie Cyr, an Oak Harbor resident. “We’ve only been on the island for a year but we love it. Great family fun.”
Her 10-year-old, Isabelle, appeared to be having a good time as well. That is, after she got over her initial revulsion of the squid bait that was being passed out by derby officials.
“Ewww,” she said with a shudder.
The fish didn’t seem to share her opinion, however. Isabelle had never caught a fish in her life but managed to land five within the first 30 minutes of the event using the slimy bait.
Others were even luckier.
Connor Perelka, 5, scored big when he successfully hauled up what appeared to be the largest fish of the day with dad’s help. They rushed it over to the judge’s scale and weighed in a 1.1-pound salmon.
It earned the young angler “Biggest Fish” of the day in the junior boys division.
“That was awesome,” said his obviously proud father. “He’s a little fisherman.”
Alexis Lumpkin took first in the same category for girls while Brayden McGhee and Amira Walton won “Most Fish” for the boys and girls divisions. For older kids, ages 6-12, Linkin Lugo and Cali Pretti won for “Biggest Fish” and Cole Valdez and Anyssa Yakubchak were first in “Most Fish.”
Following the derby, everyone was treated to a hot dog lunch at the Oak Harbor Yacht Club. The organization was the host of this year’s derby and, all in all, it was a great event, said Gary Jandzinski, captain of the club’s buccaneers.
The weather was beautiful, there was a rockin’ turnout and everyone seemed to have a good time.
“This is Oak Harbor community,” Jandzinski said. “This is what small towns in America are still about.”