December 2, 2021

‘You caught one’

Children and parents take part in Durkee Park fishing derby

Joe McIntyre/staff photographer

Izabella Rundell, 7, of Cortland and her grandfather Kurt Armstrong weigh-in a bullhead during the Izaak Walton League's fishing derby at Durkee Park in Homer.

HOMER — The bobber at the end of 7-year-old Izabelle Rundell’s fishing line twitched Saturday, creating small ripples along the surface of Durkee Pond.

Another twitch, more ripples. Then another.

But she wasn’t paying attention. Her lined tightened and the bobber fought to stay above water.

Her grandfather called to her that she “caught one.” Rundell grabbed her pink fishing pole and reeled in her line as fast as her right arm could go.

The fish hooked at the end of her line did its best to pull her into the water instead. But Rundell was stronger.

She managed to reel in her second catch of the day.

“I caught a bullhead!” the young Cortland resident said, with a large grin and wide eyes, bringing the fish to get weighed and measured as part of the 27th annual Hooked on Fishing Derby.

It weighed in at 8 ounces and was 10 inches long, her record catch for the day. However, it wasn’t the best of the day.

About an hour into the 2 1/2-hour free event at Durkee Memorial Park in Homer, the title for best catch belonged to 6-year-old Jasper Allyn of Cortland. He caught a 1-pound, 8-ounce bullhead fish, coming in at 14 1/2 inches long.

By the end of the event, those who caught the longest fish won a trophy, provided by the Cortland Youth Bureau, which hosted the event.

Competition was not the focus of the derby, though.

“It is to get kids outside, get them fishing, “ said Andrea Piedigrossi, recreation supervisor for the youth bureau.

With the cold weather finally vanished and sunny days ahead, the derby was an easy excuse for the 40 families who attended it to enjoy a few hours outside.

Cole Brown of Homer has attended the derby for almost 20 years. In the past few years he has brought his cousin,
Timothy Hudson, along with him.

“He asks every year when the fishing derby starts,” Brown said.

Brown added the event is a nice opportunity to get outside and do something, rather than be stuck inside.

Chris Caldwell helps his son Seth, 5, set up his fishing rod and reel Saturday during the Hooked on Fishing Derby at Durkee Pond in Homer.

All around the pond there was an echo was of parents and grandparents saying, “You caught one” to their kids.

Isabella Sisting of Cortland was not one of the kids to hear that, but she said she still had fun. She just loves to go fishing.

The derby helped her find a new place to do it, too. Her father, George Sisting, said they have lived in the area for about 15 years and never knew Durkee Park existed until he found out about the derby.

Whether the kids caught no fish or several, there was not a somber expression across the pond. The wait that comes with hoping to catch one left some kids bored, though, as they walked away from their poles, leaving their parents to tend it.

Not for Izabelle. She said she likes sitting and waiting for a bite.

However, with her back turned, pole laying on the ground, her bobber began to twitch. Again, her grandfather again called out: “You caught one.”