Some days the fish just don’t bite.
But once in a while, the piscean stars seem to align. Saturday at Mineral Lake was one of those days.
With cheeks a jolly red from a day in the sun, fishermen on the docks were cleaning brown and rainbow trout late Saturday morning. The annual fishing derby, which kicks off fishing season in Mineral, began just after midnight that day.
The event acts as a tourist attraction and a local community ordeal. Since the 1990s, the derby has been managed by either the Lions Club or American Legion.
Both service organizations are highly active in the East Lewis County town, though locals in and outside of both recently saw the need for another group.
Thus, the Mineral Community Club (MCC) was born. Led by pastor Jeffery Robertson, who came to town a few months ago, the new nonprofit has been helping out with community events the last two months, tagging along with the established clubs to get acclimated to the scene.
On Saturday, the derby acted as a kick-off event for the club.
“I just wanted to have a bigger footprint in the community, so I got involved. And I can't think of a better place to get involved than right in the middle of every community event,” Robertson said.
“Events are the big thing, but it's not just about giving the community a place to come and hang out. It's about drawing awareness to this wonderful area. I mean, look at it, it’s beautiful, right?”
In the early afternoon, the Legion held a final weigh-in for the derby. Average winners, according to Legion Commander Frank Sterling, usually come in around 5 or 6 pounds. This year, the fish were just not getting that big, he said.
When asked why, Sterling simply shrugged.
By mid-morning, a cooler beside the Legion building — which is marked by a red, white and blue striped roof — was already stocked with its derby winner, a 22-inch, 3.82-pound trout caught by John Ronish.
Results were tallied by Mineral resident Donna Elliott, who is involved in all three of the town’s service organizations. Elliott was excited about the derby being an introductory occasion for Mineral’s newest club.
“I think this is kind of a kick off because I feel other than our St. Patrick's Day event, we have the Mineral Community Center on the banner. They've done a lot of the work and they're getting more exposure,” she said.
The lake town has more young folks than it used to, she said, and having another nonprofit with the energy and excitement of the MCC may inspire more connection with the newer generations.
“That little small-town America that we all talk about so much or that people maybe think of as it used to be, it really is here,” Elliott said. “We have a diverse community, but at the core of it is really the desire to get together and do things for everyone, with everyone.”