For 25 years now, children have experienced the thrill of reeling in a big one - for free - thanks to Wally Laumeyer and the Cape Coral Kiwanis Club.
Once again, the annual Cape Coral Kiwanis Club Free Fishing Derby will take place at the Cape Coral Yacht Club Pier. Organized by Laumeyer, the event is set for April 20 starting at 8:30 a.m.; check-in will take place beforehand.
No advance registration is required.
The derby is open to boys and girls ages 5-15.
"The goal of the event is to give children a chance to start fishing at a young age," Laumeyer said. "Those who otherwise would not have the opportunity."
Rods, reels and bait are provided for the children.
"They don't have to bring anything," he said.
Volunteers are available to help those who do not know how to fish.
"If they need any help, we teach them how to fish," he said.
Due to the pier's capacity, the derby is limited to 400 participants.
Approximately 350 children typically take part every year.
"If the weather's real nice, then we'll have our 400," Laumeyer said.
Organizers strongly urge parents to attend with their child.
"Younger participants should be accompanied by an adult," he said.
"This is a great family date," Laumeyer added. "We get parents together with the kids and have a lot of fun doing it."
Some families come back year after year to take part.
"They just know they're going to have a good time," he said. "It's just something that the kids really enjoy."
Unlike other children's tournaments, the Kiwanis derby is free.
"One of our goals is to really cater to the kids in the community, and this is just one way that we're pushing it a little more," Laumeyer said.
"This is a great opportunity for the Kiwanis - that is well supported by the community - to give something back," he added.
Laumeyer, who has organized the derby every year since its start, is a fisherman himself. He started fishing as a young boy in Minnesota.
"If we can just keep one kid from getting into trouble by offering a positive alternative, it's worth the time and efforts spent," he said of the event.
Every participant gets to take home a Zebco 202 rod and reel.
First, second and third place trophies are awarded for the largest fish caught, as well as a trophy to recognize the smallest fish reeled in.
According to Laumeyer, the largest fish caught since the derby's inception was a trout about 16 inches long. The smallest was a 2.5-inch grouper.
"It's all catch and release," he said.
The Kiwanis has about 15 bicycles to give away as door prizes for the participants. The children are given raffle tickets as they check in.
"At the end of the derby, we draw tickets," Laumeyer said.
For more information, contact Wally Laumeyer at (239) 772-8678.
The Cape Coral Yacht Club Pier is at 5819 Driftwood Parkway.