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Youth fishing tournament promotes conservation

Children trying to get “the big one” vying for prizes surrounded Izaak Walton Lake in Pedro on Saturday for the Fifth Annual Fishing Tournament.

The lake is a private and used by members of the Lawrence County Chapter of the Izaak Walton League of the United States, a national conservation organization.

More than 100 people — parents, grandparents and onlookers — participated with 58 children signed up to fish.

“There’s a group of us that get together and organize this every year,” said Clyde Millhouse, of Kitts Hill. “We usually have a pretty good turnout every year.”

Traci Knipp, caretaker of the lake, was in charge of weighing each fish the children brought to her.

Nicholas Massie, 5, of Wilgus, caught the first fish of the day, a five-ounce bluegill.

Jackie Thomas, a member, carefully recorded each weigh-in. She has been a member since 1976.

The league planted thousands of trees in a burned-out forest and they practice conservation. The Izaak Walton League was formed in 1922 to save outdoor America.

According to the league mission, it was formed to “conserve, maintain, protect and restore the soil, forest, water and other natural resources of the United States and other lands; to promote means and opportunities for the education of the public with respect to such resources and their enjoyment and wholesome utilization.”

“There’s several (groups) in Ohio,” said member Jerry Thomas. “About every place has a lake and a clubhouse. They fight for fishermen’s rights and all different kinds of conservation.”

Part of their mission is to restore watersheds, reduce air pollution, fight against litter, protect wildlife habitat and open spaces, and instilling conservation ethics in outdoor recreationists.

“There’s about 50,000 members in the nation,” said Phil Hardy, president of the local league. “This is conservation we’re talking about differing from, ‘Don’t use anything,’ We believe in using this stuff but don’t tear it all up and leave some for the next guy.”

The grounds are for members only but it is opened a few times a year for the public to come in, at no charge.

“We’re hoping to promote conservation, and at this outing primarily introducing kids to fishing that may not ordinarily have the opportunity to do so,” Hardy said.

All the children had a prize to take home, he said. One table was full of toys and prizes waiting for the children to finish the tournament.

“We divide them into age groups and they make their own choices,” he said. “First place winners get to pick first.”

After two hours of fishing, everyone was invited to eat at the shelter house and go on a hayride.