In just over three weeks, the hatchery will host its seventh annual Veterans Fishing Derby. Last year, the weather was quite cooperative – but we never quite know what to expect. Whatever the weather, we anticipate seeing a couple hundred tough service men and women having a wonderful time fishing, chatting, remembering, and just enjoying the honor of a special event like no other.

In just over three weeks, the hatchery will host its seventh annual Veterans Fishing Derby. Last year, the weather was quite cooperative – but we never quite know what to expect. Whatever the weather, we anticipate seeing a couple hundred tough service men and women having a wonderful time fishing, chatting, remembering, and just enjoying the honor of a special event like no other.
When we have an event like this, the participants act just like little kids in the days and weeks leading up to Christmas. We start making plans starting around January to make sure we’ve got all our wheels in motion for a smooth and successful derby. But we get calls from people all the time asking when the next fishing day will be. And that really picks up steam as one of them approaches, like now. We do have a website through the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service that has all the particulars on the printed flyer, as well as a Facebook page that will give more up-to-date details and happenings as they come up. I encourage you to explore them both to stay on top of this and other events!
In past years, it has been so encouraging seeing veterans come from pretty far away. Understandably, over 80% registered indicated that they were from Missouri. Oklahoma and Arkansas were the next most popular, followed by Kansas and others. Other years we also had people indicate they were from South Dakota, Iowa, Louisiana, and even North Carolina! We are looking forward to this year’s varied distribution.
As for towns, Neosho has been the most common, and that makes sense in terms of distance traveled. Joplin is the number two town, and then the radiating towns come in next. Anderson, Carthage, Goodman and Bella Vista usually make their presence known well, among many others. I always spend a couple of days driving around the whole area putting up flyers (keep your eyes peeled!) and mail many out to all the military posts in a much larger radius. In all, over 300 notices have been put up or sent out, not counting all the online visits and phone calls for information. We sure hope those that want to come hear about it! If you know of a good place to put up a display, come on by and ask for a flyer – we want everyone to know what’s coming.
We are always so blessed to have a strong showing of volunteers to help make the derbies simply unforgettable. For some extra unforgetability, this derby coincides with St. Patrick’s Day, so watch out for leprechauns along the pond! There will also be a strong contingent of human helpers with poles, hooks, nets and bait for the fishers. Then our amazing cleaners will turn those rainbows into dinner ready offerings by cleaning and bagging them in ice. We have fish in the pond of all sizes – so some will be smaller than others. But one rule we have is that the first four fish you catch are the ones you keep – no catch and release for this event. Whatever ones people manage to land are sure to please – we raise some pretty amazing trout here at the oldest operating federal fish hatchery in the country.  Should be like Christmas in March (Saturday the 17th, to be specific, starting at 9:00 am) for a bunch of military folks – all our pleasure for those that give so much! The event concludes at noon, so get here early enough to fish!