A few days ago we held our first of three public fishing events at the hatchery. For our seventh annual Veterans Fishing Derby, we never know what to expect for our Mid-March weather. Some years we’ve been cold and wet, other times it has been sunny and picture perfect. But once the day dawned for our latest event, we could sense the luck of the leprechauns was upon us. St. Patrick’s Day coincided nicely with this year’s derby, and for our pot-of-gold weather, well, it could’ve been a bit warmer. Unfortunately, the chilly breeze seems to have scared a few folks off.

A few days ago we held our first of three public fishing events at the hatchery. For our seventh annual Veterans Fishing Derby, we never know what to expect for our Mid-March weather. Some years we’ve been cold and wet, other times it has been sunny and picture perfect. But once the day dawned for our latest event, we could sense the luck of the leprechauns was upon us. St. Patrick’s Day coincided nicely with this year’s derby, and for our pot-of-gold weather, well, it could’ve been a bit warmer. Unfortunately, the chilly breeze seems to have scared a few folks off.
This year we had 182 veterans register and dip their lines in the pond, which compares a bit lower than our yearly average of right about two hundred. We put a few thousand trout in that pond a few months back so that they would be ready for this day. Normally, the sizes vary, but our fish were all the same age this time. Due to a major pond renovation project last year, we had to drain our ponds, and find a home for all the fish. If any survive our next two events, they’ll be some nice catches for 2019. So whether their hooks found the largest fish or not, all seemed to catch their limit of trout by the time the ending whistle sounded. We closed up the event at about noon, but most had departed long before then, full of pleasant memories and a tasty hotdog lunch.
It is always a pleasure to hear the stories as I walk around and watch the activity around the pond during a fishing derby. We always get a big range of ages and tenures – from WWII Vets in their 90s on down to active soldiers in their 20s. Most participants wore some hat or shirt or other emblem of their service, so there was a colorful display from all their different branches and experiences. Everyone was so thankful that we put on this event each year – for them to be acknowledged like this is a great pat on the back and chance to reminisce. We are pleased to present it to them and so pleased that our volunteers stepped up as always in a huge way.
Next up is our annual Open House – coming Sunday April 15. This always coincides with the Dogwood Tour, and judging by the burgeoning redbud buds, trees might be pretty colorful by then. And speaking of trees, that is when the Missouri Department of Conservation brings their giveaway plants, so make sure you take note of that popular event.

Bruce Hallman writes a column for the Neosho Daily News.