FWC Invites Kids To Free Freshwater Fishing Derby

The annual Lake Eaton Kids’ Fishing Derby is upon us, so grab some sunscreen and a change of clothes because it’s time to get hooked on fishing.

The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission is inviting kids between the ages of 6-12 to come and learn the ropes about freshwater fishing.

The derby begins at 8 a.m. on Saturday, May 4, at the FWC’s Ocala Conservation Center and Youth Camp, which is 8.5 miles north of State Road 40 off County Road 314 in the Ocala National Forest.

FWC instructors will provide cane poles and bait to all participants. Officials ask that those fishing wear closed-toe shoes and not to bring their own rod and reel for safety reasons and to avoid tangled lines.

For those concerned about a fishing expedition on a boat, they can rest easy knowing the kids will fish from a pier.

While free, the event is limited to the first 100 children who register, so call FWC’s Northeast Regional Office in Ocala at (352) 732-1225 to find out about availability.

Also on the agenda: “Bugs and Critters.” If you’re not familiar, don’t worry, you won’t be eating any unsavory insects.

During “Bugs and Critters,” an FWC biologist teaches event-goers about the aquatic ecosystem as they use nets to catch aquatic critters.

In addition to the main event and fan-favorite “Bugs and Critters,” there will be casting contest as well as an arts and crafts activity.

If the kids want to keep fishing after the event, there will be license-free fishing days coming up for recreational anglers.

For freshwater, the next license-free fishing days will be on the second consecutive Saturday and Sunday in June.

Those that want to give saltwater a go have the first consecutive Saturday and Sunday in June, the first Saturday in September and the Saturday following Thanksgiving. This waiver includes crabbing, lobstering and scalloping, whether from a boat or shore.

Rules such as bag and size limits still apply, so check with FWC for the regulations you must follow.

If you can’t make it to the Lake Eaton Kids’ Fishing Derby, but you’re free this Saturday, April 27, the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission is inviting families to their Outdoor Experience.

The free event focuses on teaching attendees outdoor skills in a safe environment with expert instruction and equipment.

Participants can give it a go at archery and fishing or join educational programs about fish and wildlife conservation. There will also be live animal exhibits and hay rides.

The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission has invited Patrick Flanigan, a nine-time world record holder in exhibition shooting, to demonstrate his shotgun skills.

Johnston’s Meat Market will be selling food and beverages, but attendees can bring their own snacks and drinks.

The Outdoor Experience is from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. at the Beau Turner Youth Conservation Center, which is in Jefferson County on U.S. 19 just north of Highway 27.

Unlike the Lake Eaton Kids’ Fishing Derby, no registration is required for the Outdoor Experience.