Gray skies didn’t deter dozens of eager kids who turned out Saturday for the Lewis County Public Utility District’s 26th annual fishing derby on Lake Scanewa. 

“I’ve never caught a fish before,” said Myia Gardner, a 9-year-old from Randle. “It was pretty exciting.”

Gardner had just hauled in a trout weighing more than 3 pounds, following a five-minute struggle. Splashing trout and delighted squeals were frequently witnessed on the shores of the lake, and the successful casters were eager to show off their catch.

“I can’t believe I got a bite,” said Natalie Thayer, 5, from Toledo. “I want to get two more. I want to get three, actually.”

The fishing derby is hosted by the PUD near its Cowlitz Falls Dam. The lake is well-stocked with trout, and children 14 and under have from 9 to 11 a.m. to catch up to three fish, vying for the biggest catch. 

Auburn resident Isabella Mulvihill, 13, hooked a 6-pound trout that was tied for the lead about halfway through the derby. Unlike some others, she was far from a newcomer to fishing.

“I love fishing. I missed opening day, and I was really bummed about that, so this makes up for it,” she said. “This is the biggest fish I’ve caught. ... I love the patience that you have to have, it really gets that up. When you get your prize, it’s awesome.”

Similar excitement was evident from many of the kids fishing the lake Saturday morning, whether they’d landed a trophy fish or not. 

“This is the best part of my job,” said PUD project biologist Laura Wolfe. “After all of the planning, I love watching them have fun. ... It’s a collaborative effort between a whole bunch of different organizations. It takes weeks, sometimes months, of preparation. As soon as we stop for this year, we’ll start coming up with ideas for next year.”

Among the additions for this year’s event were snow cone and cotton candy machines, more coffee and refreshments, as well as face painting. 

Along with the PUD, the U.S. Forest Service also had a strong presence at the derby. 

“We’re just here to support a great community event and partnership with the PUD and get kids out and exposed to the outdoors,” said Cowlitz Valley District Ranger Gar Abbas. “Our primary role is to do a little bit of extra education. ... We’re helping kids learn how to tie a proper fishing knot and giving them some basic skills for how to enjoy fishing.”

Those lessons seemed to be paying off, as fish after fish flopped up on the banks of the lake. Trendan Elkins, 8, from Glenoma, brought his third fish to shore with a smile. Asked about his favorite part of the day, he had a simple answer: “catching the fish.”

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