Marysville fishing derby lures in a crowd

MARYSVILLE — Alexie Kilbourn has been coming to the annual free fishing derby in Marysville for six of the 17 years that it's been around, even though she's only been around for nine years herself.

"I like how the fish fight for it when I reel them in," said the 9-year-old Marysville native, as she helped 3-year-old Lissa Kilbourn, the daughter of her visiting cousin from Oregon, net a catch of her own at the Jennings Memorial Park Kiwanis Pond on May 7. "You have to reel them in really fast then."

"We just happened to come up from Portland for the weekend to see family," said Sarah Kilbourn, Lissa's mom. "It's a cool experience. Do you want to eat fish tonight?" she asked her daughter.

"No," Lissa said, drawing laughter from the adults around her.

"I love eating fish," Alexie said.

She wasn't alone, as 4-year-old Connor Weldon, who attended his third fishing derby this year, told his parents that he wanted to catch the family's dinner for that night by himself.

"He likes to eat fish, but he doesn't like to hold them," laughed Jason Weldon, Connor's dad, as his son became squeamish about grabbing the fish in his net.

John Martinis estimated that Weldon and the Kilbourns were among the nearly 500 junior fishers who crowded around the stocked pond that day, enough that the event handed out 100 tackle bags within its first hour.

"Most years, we get about 300 kids," said Martinis, who helped start the annual event with the Marysville Parks and Recreation Department before his own child had even started grade school. While the Martinis family is an empty nest now, and has since moved Everett, John was pleased to see that children aged 12 and younger can still enjoy some free fishing in Marysville.

"The whole premise was that it was for families who didn't already fish," Martinis said. "All they have to do is walk or drive to Jennings Park, and get their poles and tackle and bait for free."

Jack Blair, a board member of the Everett Steelhead and Salmon Club, noted that his organization stocked the pond with $1,540 worth of fish.

"They're about 10 to 13 inches long, but we've had some kids catch two- and three-pounders," Blair said. "One even reeled in a four-pounder."

As in any good fishing yarn, the fish seem to grow bigger with each telling, but Marysville Mayor Jon Nehring swore he'd seen other kids pulling five- and seven-pound fish out of the water this year.

"I've never seen them as big here as they've gotten this year," Nehring said. "The fishing derby is one of our most popular events. There's nothing quite like seeing these kids' eyes get as wide as saucers when they see what they've caught."

The Marysville Kiwanis Club, which also helps make the annual event possible, served 220 pancake breakfasts to fishing families that morning.

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