By DREW WINCHESTER, firstname.lastname@example.org
Wally Laumeyer fondly recalls a childhood spent fishing in Minnesota, experiences that would shape his priorities later in life and inspire him to pass on his love for fishing to others.
For over two decades Laumeyer and the Cape Coral Kiwanis Club have invited thousands of youngsters to the Yacht Club pier to try their hands at what Laumeyer loves so dearly, hoping that a rod and reel will inspire, delight and enthrall them – some who’ve never fished before.
“If we can get the kids to go fishing, and maybe keep just one of them out of trouble, it’s all worth it,” Laumeyer said.
For the 22nd year, the Kiwanis Club, and Laumeyer, has been giving area youth a shot at casting a line into the Caloosahatchee River.
The club provides free rods and reels to all the youngsters who show up.
This year Laumeyer said they have roughly 400 sets of rods and reels to hand out, a far cry from the 15 or so they gave out 22 years ago.
The fishing derby is Laumeyer’s baby.
He’s guided and nurtured the event throughout the years, saying that the planning process starts six months prior to the actual day of the event.
“It’s gotten better throughout the years, of course, but I really take a lot of interest in it,” he said. “It’s a lot of fun. To me, I look forward to it more than Christmas.”
The participants don’t compete in the traditional sense, but they are awarded trophies for largest and second largest fish are caught.
Then there’s the famous “smallest fish” trophy, which Laumeyer said is a fun award and gives everyone – even the child who can’t catch a big one – the opportunity to feel special.
Laumeyer and the Kiwanis Club are also planning on giving away some pretty cool door prizes – 15 brand new bicycles. And, of course, all kids receive a free rod and reel.
“It would have been nice to have one of those rods when I was a kid,” Laumeyer said.
At 78, Laumeyer said he’s wondering who will pick up the reins of his beloved event once he decides he’s no longer capable of handling the intense planning process.
As an insurance policy of sorts, Laumeyer said he’s been constructing a detailed log with all the information necessary to plan and execute the fishing derby.
While he’s not planning on giving up anytime real soon, he said he just hopes someone will step forward, and that the log will help them make the fishing derby a continued success.
“Lets face it, when I’m 90, should I still be doing this?” Laumeyer asked, adding, “It’s a fun deal, and I’m hoping someone will come along and take it over … and if I should tip over today, someone could take that log and run the derby.”
Keeping youngsters out of trouble, inspiring them to get off the couch and outside, it’s all part of Laumeyer’s true hopes for the derby.
He said kids are simply enthralled when they catch a fish, especially if it’s the first time.
The youngsters all get their photos taken when they land their first fish, and have their names and fish recorded on a big board that Laumeyer said lights up their faces.
“To see these kids’ enthusiasm, its really something,” he said.
The Kiwanis Free Kid’s Fishing Derby is Saturday, April 17, at the Cape Coral Yacht Club fishing pier. The derby starts at 8:30 a.m. and runs until 11:30 a.m.
All boys and girls from ages 5-15 are invited. No advance registration is necessary, but Laumeyer suggests getting to the pier by 7:30 in order to get a free rod and reel. They are limited to roughly 400 kids.
As the number of bikes are limited to 15, each kids is given a raffle ticket, and the bikes are raffled later in the day.
The Cape Coral Kiwanis Club is also urging all parents to attend, and that younger participants should be accompanied by and adult.
The event is staffed by Kiwanis Club of Cape Coral volunteers. Bait is also provided.
For more information, contact Laumeyer at 772-8679 or at the Kiwanis Club Thrift Store on Southeast 47th Terrace at 542-2849 or at the Yacht Club pier the day of the event.
As Laumeyer said, “Just ask for Wally. Everybody knows me.”
The fishing derby is catch and release.