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Young anglers invited to wrangle trout

Kevin Barnes has been involved with the Kids Fishing Rodeo in Westminster since he was 14 years old and fishing in it himself.

Now, having watched all three of his boys fish in the rodeo and grow too old to compete, he volunteers his time to make sure the event can continue.

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"I think it's a really great thing for the kids to do with their parents on a Sunday ... when my kids were in the tournament, I would help them judge the fish. Now I organize all the door prizes and all the donations," Barnes said.

April 28 will be the 25th Kids' Fishing Rodeo in 26 years, according to Henry Lysy, the founder of the rodeo.

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"One year we didn't have it because they drained the [Westminster Community] pond," Lysy said.

Lysy, the self described "grandfather" of the Fishing Rodeo, said that he started the event in 1987 as part of the Westminster Optimists.

"I like to fish and my son, he had a gone to a couple of fishing derbies with me. The Optimists were always looking for something good for the kids. That's why I started [the Fishing Rodeo] and once I started it, it was a good event for the Optimists," Lysy said.

Since the Westminster Optimists disbanded two years ago, the Kids' Fishing Rodeo has been sponsored by Westminster Little League as part of their community outreach program, according to Lysy.

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This year, because of renovation work on the Westminster Community pond, the Kids' Fishing Rodeo will be held at the Carroll County Farm Museum pond.

According to Lysy, the Maryland Department of Natural Resources will stock the pond with trout on Friday, and the pond will be kept closed until that Sunday to ensure there are plenty of fish for the children.

The Maryland Department of Resources will stock ponds and lakes across the state with trout and sunfish for upwards of 60 fishing rodeos this year, according to Letha Grimes, a natural resources biologist with the agency.

Grimes said that the funding for these stocking programs, including the 250 rainbow trout will be stocked for the Westminster event, comes from the sport fishing restoration grant, which is based on an excise tax on fishing tackle and equipment.

In the first year of the Fishing Rodeo, the Maryland Department of Natural Resources stocked the pond with catfish, according to Lysy, which turned out to be a poor choice.

"The catfish are little hard for the kids to catch, so it ended up being trout because the trout are a little bit dumber. The trout they stock is a hybrid and they will also put some golden trout in there," Lysy said.

In addition to the trout, Lysy said there are also a few other species in the pond, including catfish, blue gills and crappy.

Lysy said that participants are encouraged to catch and release all varieties of fish except for the trout, which participants are encouraged to keep.

"When you handle a trout but they don't usually live. There's a 75 percent chance they are going to die right away and they don't usually live through the summer ... The water gets too warm for them and it drains the oxygen from the water," Lysy said.

Each fish caught by a child will be measured and recorded and first, second and third place prizes will be given in the 13 to 15, 10 to 12, 7 to 9, and 6 and younger age groups, according to Lysy.

"There will also be one grand champion who will get a bigger trophy and a season pass to Piney Run Park," Lysy said.

Barnes said that because of support from his parents' company, Barnes' Service Center, and local businesses, such as Dick's Sporting goods, there will be door prizes drawn throughout the day so that even the children who do not win prizes for fish have a chance to win something, and as in years past, the Texas Roadhouse will also be providing a free meal coupon for all children younger than 12 years of age.

There will also be free hot dogs, hamburgers and drinks for children in the rodeo, according to Lysy, with adults being asked to contribute $1 for their own refreshments.

The Kids' Fishing Rodeo is free for all children age 15 and younger, according to Barnes, and since bait is being donated as well, young anglers need only bring a fishing rod.

Lysy that it's OK if parents fish too, just so long as they don't do everything for the children.

"We try to make it a family event. The parents and the guardians, we encourage them to help the kids, not to do it for them, but that way the family is involved," Lysy said.

According to Grimes, while children will not need a fishing license, anyone older than the age of 16 will need a valid fishing license and a "trout stamp" if they plan to keep trout.

A fishing license and trout stamps can be purchased at vendors such as Wal-Mart, according to Grimes, or purchased and printed off of the Maryland Department of Natural Resources website at http://www.dnr.state.md.us/fisheries/.

The rodeo will begin at 8 a.m. and the contest will run until 3 p.m., according to Lysy, with judging and prizes awarded between 3 p.m. and 4 p.m.

Barnes said the event will go on no matter the weather.

"We do the event rain or shine. We've been out there before in freezing cold, pouring rain and the hottest of springs," Barnes said.

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