By Mike Anderson

More than 90 kids fished the Maskinonge River off the Boston Pizza docks during the first annual NeXgen Young Anglers – Kids Fishing Derby, held in Keswick on Father’s Day, June 18.

The free event was organized by Friends Outreach Canada, a non-profit organization that helps less privileged kids and youth under 14 by engaging them in outdoor activities and educating them about angling, outdoor survival and conservation.

Many of the kids were from local registered charities, like Big Brothers, Big Sisters, Boys & Girls Club Canada (BGC) and Jericho Youth Services.

“It’s a great feeling when you see kids and their parents fishing, and they’re having so much fun, especially the less privileged ones,” said Stanley Joshuasingh, president and founder of Friends Outreach Canada.

“We have professional and seasoned anglers volunteering to teach the kids. We also provide at no cost, fishing rods, T-shirts, water bottles, and grab bags that include a tackle box with extra lures. Our mission is to encourage, educate and empower kids to enjoy the great outdoors.”

One of the professional anglers was Scottie Martin, host of the Canadian Fishing Network on youtube. Like many of the volunteers, Scottie showed kids how to bait their hooks and cast safely.

“This kind of fishing is very inexpensive, a dozen worms, a bobber, a small fishing rod, a small hook, and you can make it happen. So you don’t need a lot of money. You just need the will to want to,” said Scottie, who believes fishing needs to be accessible for everyone.

“These events are how we will pass along that passion for angling. Seeing these young kids enjoying what I love to do warms my heart.”

Scottie also believes angling is a great way to get kids to think about sustainability, the environment and the importance of conservation.

“Fish only exist in water that is pure and clean. And as long as we catch fish, our water is clean enough to drink and live around. Fishing helps to teach stewardship of the water and the land.”

Stanley Joshuasingh (C)
Scottie Martin teaching kids how to cast
Anastasia with family
Kids were happy to get free fishing rods

Many parents were happy the derby was free, and their kids could keep the fishing rods.

“The event is fantastic. It’s a great opportunity to be together with the family,” said Anastasia Zintsov, whose family recently moved to Keswick from Ukraine.

“My older son caught two fish, and he is very excited. And now that both boys have rods, they can go fishing again.”

“If it weren’t for this event, we would never have this opportunity to be here and to try fishing in Canada.”

The derby was initially planned to be at the Peninsula Resort in Pefferlaw. But ice damage to a dock forced the organizers to search for a new location. Thankfully, Boston Pizza Keswick came to the rescue, becoming the title sponsor, with its landlord, Beswick Group, providing permission to use the property and the docks on the Maskinonge River.

According to a show of hands, over half of the kids caught a fish, mainly Black Bullheads, Pumpkinseed or Perch.

They received prizes for catching the most, smallest, and biggest fish. Eight-year-old Pasha Derakhshan caught the biggest fish, a 12-inch Perch.

Buoyed by its success, Stanley hopes to repeat the derby in the same location next year.

“I’ve been doing a kids fishing derby on boats at Sibbald Point Provincial Park for the past 12 years. Over the years, it has become one of the largest fishing derby’s in Canada, with kids fishing on boats. So now I plan to fish from shore and make it a staple in Georgina, especially from this location.”

But Stanley admits it will only happen if more sponsors step up.

“Sponsorship is our bloodline. Unless we have sponsors, this is not possible,” he said.

“Boston Pizza stood up to the plate to provide us with food. We also had the Sutton Legion, Pefferlaw Lions, Canadian Tire and Home Hardware as sponsors. But we need more service clubs and local businesses to support this cause.”

“It’s a struggle the first year. Hopefully, the second year is going to be much easier.”

Stanley would also like to give a huge shout out to the wonderful volunteers who took time on Father’s Day to help out with the kids and make the event a success.