Organizers have set Saturday, April 18 as the date for one of New Canaan’s most cherished annual, kid-friendly and accessible events.
The George Cogswell Memorial Fishing Derby at Mill Pond will run 9 to 11 a.m., and its organizers are seeking support from the community to ensure it continues.
Held at Mill Pond since it was launched in the 1970s, the event sees the pond stocked with trout and prizes awarded to the boy and girl who catch the biggest fish. The derby’s upper age limit is 15 and entry is free.
Its Fish Management Fund is running out and donations are needed, said Tiger Mann, assistant director of the Department of Public Works, which joins local merchants in helping the Recreation Department sponsor the event. Those wishing to support the fishing derby should make checks payable to the ‘Town of New Canaan,’ write ‘Fish Management’ in the memo section and send it to Tiger Mann at New Canaan DPW, 174 South Avenue, New Canaan CT 06840.
Named for a former New Canaan police officer, the event was launched nearly a half-century ago by the Police Benevolent Association. The fishing derby came “home” to Mill Pond after a 2008 dredge, having spent a few years over at Mead, and this year the timing of the event is extra-special because it dovetails with the official state opening of the fishing season.
In the past, local officials obtained a special permit to hold the fishing derby one week ahead of the season, and had to send all families home directly afterwards. This year, Mann said, the wider community will be able to fish Mill Pond immediately following the contest.
It is an iconic New Canaan scene, said Tucker Murphy, executive director of the New Canaan Chamber of Commerce.
“Nothing says New Canaan better than a Saturday morning down at Mill Pond with kids throwing their lines in a well-stocked pond,” Murphy said.
She added that the fishing derby, which is supported by all of New Canaan’s emergency responders, is unique in that it offers all families a low bar of entry to participate. Registration opens at 8:30 a.m. and kids under 10 must be accompanied by an adult. In addition to prizes for the biggest fish, door prizes sponsored by local merchants will be raffled off to participants.
“The success of it is seeing the smiles on the kids’ faces when they pull out a fish and have it measured after getting a bite on the line,” Murphy said.
One avid local fisherman and supporter of the fishing derby, Bill Walbert, said he loves the event.
“My son actually won the fishing derby back when he was six years old,” Walbert said of his now-24-year-old. “I still have the picture in my study. One of the proudest moments in my life. I don’t think he cared but for me it was a very big deal.”