With advancing age, it’s easier to forget how big the small things used to be. Every year, Virginia Tech’s Chapter of the American Fisheries Society hosts its local Mud Bass Tournament, and for many of its younger participants, it will be their first time ever reeling in a catch.
“I remember a little girl catching this really tiny fish that I wouldn’t have thought was very exciting, but to her it was amazing,” said Jason Emmel, a junior fisheries science major and VTAFS member. “It was pretty cool to see her.”
Eric Hallerman, fisheries and wildlife sciences department head and VTAFS member, also had a similar experience eight to 10 years ago when his son caught his first fish.
The VTAFS and the department of fisheries and wildlife sciences is sponsoring the tournament, which will take place on Saturday, April 17 at Tech’s Duck Pond from 9 a.m. to 12 p.m.
Based on previous years, Emmel expects approximately 250 people to attend the event. The majority of participants will most likely be children accompanied by their parents, so the AFS pays special attention to the children’s interests.
The tournament is organized by species. Participants will win prizes based on what species of fish they catch. Because this is a “mud bass” tournament — mud bass is another name for a carp fish — most of the prizes are placed in the carp species category. Hence, participants can win first, second, or third place for largest carp caught. They can also win most carps caught.
For all other species of fish, adults can win only largest species of fish caught. Children can win both largest and smallest species of fish caught.
“Even if a kid catches a tiny fish, then they can still be proud of it,” Emmel said, “and they can actually win a prize for it.”
Winners will be given prizes that they can use in the future to go fishing like tackle boxes and fishing rods.
Jane Argentina, a graduate student who is receiving her doctorate in fisheries and wildlife sciences and AFS president, explained that the tournament is not only a competition but also an outreach event to teach the community about fishing.
The tournament seeks to instruct beginner anglers on proper fishing techniques. AFS members will share knowledge about fisheries management, conservation and stewardship of aquatic resources.
“It’s engagement and education,” Hallerman said.
Although most participants in previous years have brought their own fishing gear, the Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries will be providing approximately 20 fishing rods and reels for those who do not own or bring the proper equipment.
“Sometimes people show up with the wrong stuff,” Emmel explained. “They have like thick salt-water rods, and they have a lot of trouble catching the smaller fish. What we try to do is bring some smaller hooks and bobbers and try to set them up with the right thing, so that it is easier for them to catch the fish.”
If children become bored with fishing, there will be other activities such as face painting and games. Feed tanks will be filled with fish, so children can observe the species of fish they are catching. Children will also have the opportunity to learn the importance of conservation.
Free food and drinks will be served at the event. The donating vendors have not yet been confirmed, but Emmel plans on providing soda, baked goods, sandwiches and pizza.
There is no pre-registration or cost for the event, but participants must sign in when they arrive.
Hallerman encourages those interested in fishing and the outdoors to get out under the blue sky — although the event will take place rain or shine — to enjoy fisheries resources.
Emmel agrees and believes that the tournament has something to offer for all ages.
“I hope mostly that kids who haven’t been exposed to fishing will come away with a new appreciation for fishing or at least want to try it again,” Emmel explained. “I think parents will also get a lot out of it by bringing their kids, teaching them how to fish and enjoying catching new fish.”