These days the Highland County Rod & Gun Club exists primarily for one reason – to hold an annual event introducing kids to fishing and shooting. That event comes up April 1 with the Trout Derby & Fun Shoot at the Rocky Fork State Park Campground docks.
Registration starts at 10 a.m. and shooting, both bows and arrows and shotguns, for kids age 15 and under, is from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. The trout derby, also for kids ages 15 and under, runs from 1-4 p.m. in a netted area at the docks.
“We just want to encourage the youth of today to become involved in outdoor sports like fishing and hunting,” said Tim Schlater, president of the club. “Kids have so many electronic gadgets today that compete for their time, so we hope some of them sill want to be exposed to outdoor sports. It may open doors for them to pursue further into the future.”
The first 500 kids who register for the event receive a free gift. Most of them are small fishing lures or similar items, but some win larger prizes like tackle boxes or fishing poles.
Around 1,500 rainbow trout, measuring 10-13 inches, will be stocked into the netted area at the lake two days prior to the derby. Twelve of them will be tagged and any kid catching a tagged fish during the derby will receive $100.
Kids also receive a free lunch of hot dogs, chips and drinks. Bait, ammunition and guns are provided, but kids should bring their own fishing poles and tackle. The club strictly asks that no one bring their own shotgun or ammunition.
Schlater said the shooting areas will be supervised by state wildlife officers and 4-H shooting instructors.
For adults, raffle tickets will be sold for a crossbow and a muzzleloader. And the netted area will be open to fishing for anyone with a valid fishing license after 4 p.m. on the day of the derby.
The netted area will be closed to fishing from the time the trout are stocked on March 30 through the end of the trout derby.
In the 15 years or so that the event has been held, Schlater said as many as 700 kids have took part in one year, but in recent years around 400 to 600 youngsters usually turn out, depending on the weather.
The event is sponsored by the Rod & Gun Club, Ohio Division of Wildlife and Ohio Division of Parks and Recreation, with a special thanks to the Hillsboro Friends of the NRA chapter. Schlater said the club has received a grant from the Ohio Department of Natural Resources in recent years to help offset some of the cost of the event.
He said that the event is completely free to the participants, but the club will accept donations. Anyone interested can call Schlater at 937-403-5811.
Because the club has no land or property, Schlater said the Trout Derby & Fun Shoot is its lone event.
“Pretty much the only reason we exist is to run this event, so we hope we have another big day,” Schlater said.
In the event of inclement weather, the rain date is Sunday, April 2 at the same times and place.
Reach Jeff Gilliland at 937-402-2522 or on Twitter @13gillilandj.