When 11-year-old Braylon Peters came with his family from Emmitsburg to the Brunswick Lions Club fishing derby, he hoped to make a catch, but the aquatic creature he snagged wasn’t quite a fish.
“I feel something tugging, then I start to reel it in,” Braylon said. “Then I see something huge, which turned out to be a giant snapping turtle. ... I was kind of weirded out. I didn’t know I would catch a turtle.”
Under the watchful eye of his grandfather, Milton Lantz, Braylon hoisted the turtle by its tail into the air. Its mouth gaped wide and snapped shut. Braylon wondered if the large turtle would count toward the prize for biggest fish of the day.
“This is our first time,” Lantz said. “A friend of ours invited us to come down to the fishing derby for the kids.”
Most people who made catches at Lions Merryland Park Sunday would reel in trout, catfish, sunnies or bass. The Maryland Department of Natural Resources stocked the pond for the club’s annual derby, which was canceled last year due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
The early bird got the parking spot Sunday afternoon, and latecomers found places along the road. Families circled the pond, lines flew through the air and bobbers danced on the water.
David Mohler, director of the club, was glad to see more than 100 children registered for the derby this year. He said they’ve been holding this event for at least 33 years. Club Vice President Doug Zveare said it was the biggest turnout he’d seen.
“We’re a service organization,” Lions Club President Ann Smallwood said. “That’s what we live for is doing things that serve the community, and this has always been one of the big projects for our year.”
The type of rods and bait seemed to vary that sunny afternoon, but 4-year-old Aurora Miles showed she could catch a fish with an Anna and Elsa light-up rod, from the Disney movie, “Frozen.” Her grandfather, Mike Stauffer, proudly displayed his granddaughter’s first fish, a golden trout. Aurora was more interested in her Goldfish crackers.
Stauffer said he’d been hoping to teach Aurora and her brother Cody fishing sometime soon. Their grandmother, Sherry, said the kids had fun picnicking and playing by the water. They came from Middletown to the derby for the first time.
“I wanted to introduce them sometime this year and this is the perfect time,” Mike Stauffer said.
For some anglers, the day marked a reunion or a chance to escape from the confinement of their homes.
Brunswick resident Paige Hann brought her family of five to the derby. Hann works in healthcare and the kids have been in virtual school, so the day marked a special outing for them.
Five-year-old Paisley peered over the bank and marveled at the tadpoles swimming in a cluster just off the muddy shore.
“There’s a lot of baby frogs,” she told her brothers Rylan, 3, and Brantley, 9. Hann’s fiancé, Nathan Fogle, gave Rylan tips on how to fish. Paisley plopped between her mom’s legs and watched her cast. Brantley detailed his prior fishing experience, confident he’d make a catch.
Under the shade of trees by the playground, a group of family friends celebrated their first catch.
“[It’s] probably one of the first times we’ve all been out together,” said Mount Airy resident Jeremy Wilson, who brought his 7-year-old son Wyatt.
Six-year-old AJ Knott was the first in their group to snag a fish. His strategy was straightforward.
“I just put the pole there and I waited,” he said.