By Kevin Shannahan
Several hundred eager young anglers and their families tried their luck at the annual Fishing Derby held at the Natchitoches National Fish Hatchery Saturday, June 1. The long standing local tradition is a part of National Fishing and Boating Week and is intended to introduce young people to the outdoors and to the sport of fishing.
The event was truly a community effort. The Cane River Waterway Commission was on hand with educational materials and a delicious demonstration of boating safety. Natchitoches’ portable park was on hand with games for the children while representatives from Caddo Parish’s Walter Jacobs Memorial Nature Park were joined by a barn owl who lives at the park. There was also face painting and a casting contest to keep the young fishermen and women busy. The Shreveport Aquarium brought a turtle and The Natchitoches Regional Medical Center supplied grilled burgers for lunch and had an ambulance on hand for extra safety.
The hatchery, a part of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, stocked each of two ponds with channel catfish especially for the event. The hatchery raises several species of endangered, imperiled and threatened fish in order to increase their populations. The fish are then sent to states as far away as Tennessee.
The derby also marks an auspicious start to the tenure of the Natchitoches National Fish Hatchery’s new director, Brett Hortman, who is in his first week on the job. Hortman, a 24 year veteran of the US Fish and Wildlife Service, started his career at the hatchery as a biologist. The Natchitoches Parish Journal would like to welcome Brett Hortman back to Natchitoches and wishes him a long and successful term at the helm of the fish hatchery.
While this is the only day that fishing is allowed at the hatchery, the main building houses several educational displays on area wildlife and history which are open to the public during normal business hours.