Kids’ Fishing Derby a family affair |

Kids’ Fishing Derby a family affair

Dave Price
Bob Ellis has been involved with the Kids' Fishing Derby since its inception 26 years ago, and his daughters, Tiffany Ellis, left, and Heather Gertsch will again be working the event on Friday and Saturday at Lampe Park. Here, they are pictured with one of the grand prize raffle items, a WoodMaster barbeque that was donated by A.J. Stoves in Gardnerville.
Dave Price |

For more than a quarter-century now, the Kids’ Fishing Derby at Lampe Park has been a tradition for the Ellis family.

Bob Ellis, 63, has never missed the event and will be back — along with his daughters, Tiffany Ellis and Heather Gertsch, and one granddaughter — on Saturday and Sunday when the 26th annual fishing derby is held.

The derby is once again free to girls and boys ages 3-12 who will have opportunities to fish in various time slots on Saturday and Sunday. Registration is required since space is limited along the banks of Willow Creek. Last year’s derby attracted more than 1,500 young participants.

This has been a fun affair for as long as Tiffany Ellis can remember. She started as a very young participant and is now active on the organizing committee as media coordinator/photographer.

“Ever since we were old enough to walk, we were following dad around, cleaning out the creek, helping plant fish … so it’s been a lifelong affair for both of us,” she said. “It’s not only supporting our community, it’s a big part of my dad’s life. He gets so excited, and it’s fun to share in that excitement. Now, my sister has her kids and they’re getting into it now and they’re fishing, so it is a lot of fun.”

Heather enjoys her memories of growing up with the derby and now relishes seeing the excitement of her own children, including 6-year-old Avalon, who enjoys participating in the derby.

“She (Avalon) loves signing up; she asks me all the time when we’re going to go,” she said of her oldest, adding with a laugh, “and Abby, my 2-year-old, is at home yelling out, ‘Kids’ Fishing Derby, come and sign up.’”

The derby needs 250 volunteers to help with the activities. A meeting will be held today at 6 p.m. at the Lampe Park pavilion to organize volunteers, who help set up, clean up, registration, food serving, the loaner pole station, gate keeper and more.

“We’re still looking for a lot of volunteers, mostly in the river and doing food prep, but we’ll take help anywhere,” Heather said.

The volunteers are an essential part of the event, Bob Ellis emphasized.

“It’s not just me … I just happen to have been around a long time,” he said in a 2014 interview to celebrate the derby’s silver anniversary. “There’s the committee and all the volunteers. Without the volunteers, none of this would be possible.”

On Thursday, more than 3,000 fish will be transported from the Mason Valley Fish Hatchery and then pumped into Willow Creek.

“We have 100 fish in the 6- to 7-pound range coming in so it’s really going to be exciting,” Tiffany said.

Fish left over after fishing ends on Sunday will be collected and taken to the Mitch Park pond in the Ranchos, she added. Participants in the derby are limited to two fish.

Grand prizes to be raffled away include a WoodMaster trailer-mounted pellet grill donated by A.J. Stoves in Gardnerville; two kid-size 110 cc quads and a $300 gift card from The Sportsman’s Warehouse, as well as other donations and gifts from the community. All proceeds go back into the Kids’ Fishing Derby for next year.

When Carson Valley water conditions looked dismal earlier this spring, the derby received a big boost when ranchers and deputy watermaster Charles Condron worked out a plan to divert water to Willow Creek.

“We were concerned there wouldn’t be enough water and we were thinking about moving over to Mitch Pond because it would have been a little bit more viable,” Tiffany said. “But because of the ranchers, we have plenty of water. And of course we had a lot of rain and snow up at Tahoe, so Willow Creek right now is extremely full.”

As far as Bob is concerned, there is no doubt what keeps him coming back.

“The best part is the looks on the kids’ faces when they catch their first fish,” he said. “It’s probably the same look I had on my face when I caught my first fish. I was probably 8 years old, and it was like, wow!”