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Hook, line and sinker

ELIZABETH TOWNSHIP — The weather was agreeable and the surroundings were certainly pleasant but 11-year-old Joey Unrue was, well, a bit bummed.

“I haven’t had no fun except when I caught a fish,” he said. His mom, Mary Unrue, laughed at that statement.

“They don’t think they’re having fun unless they catch fish,” she explained.

Catching fish, after all, was the point of the annual National Kids Fishing Derby at Lake Vesuvius.

Joey, his sisters, Leah, 7, and Rachel, 9, were among more than a 100 young sportsmen and women who dotted the boardwalk along the lake Saturday in hopes of reeling in that bass or crappie or bluegill and, in turn, maybe some bragging rights (Joey and Rachel each caught a fish that day, but Joey’s was bigger).

Mary Unrue said her kids like to fish. She and husband, Matthew, thought the derby might be a chance “to bring the kids out and have some fun.”

The Wayne National Forest has hosted this event each year to encourage children to get out into the woods and find a world of adventure.

“It’s a chance for kids to get outdoors and to introduce them to fishing,” Carrie Kirschbaum, Wayne National Forest wildlife biologist, explained. “This gives them a chance to maybe try something new. Fishing is a good activity for families and this gives families an activity to do together.”

Members of the Lawrence County Bass Club, a co-sponsor of the event, were on hand to weigh those catches and provide some support to the younger anglers.

“We’re passing out poles and bait and repairing tackle,” bass club member Jim Adkins said. “Just anything to keep it going.”

In addition to the forest service and bass club, other sponsoring agencies were the Izaak Walton League and the Ohio University Southern Nature Center.

If the derby was an opportunity to connect kids with the great outdoors, it was also an opportunity for other entities with similar purposes to introduce themselves.

Members of the Symmes Creek Restoration Society had a booth to promote their annual canoe caper Aug. 8. The Lawrence Soil and Water Conservation District had a freshwater ecology display for those who wanted to take a break from fishing to learn about environmental responsibility.

There was also a snakes display. Shawnee State University School of Nursing provided free health screenings. Anglers got a hot dog lunch, too. Smokey the Bear also paid a visit.