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A pair of area fishing derbies and a break in the weather led to family fun for many North Iowans last weekend.

The Iowa Department of Natural Resources held its annual Free Fishing Weekend on June 6–8, allowing Iowa residents of any age to fish without a license.

At McIntosh Woods State Park in Ventura on June 7, the DNR teamed up with the Clear Lake Fishing Club to host a kids’ fishing seminar and tournament attended by over 100 youngsters.

Fisheries Biologist Scott Grummer started the event with a discussion of fishing tackle and techniques.

He noted many fish species are accessible from shore this time of year, a plus for the beginning or casual angler.

“You can start out really basic with just jigs, live bait and small lures,” Grummer said.

Lake Patrol Officers Sam Tesch and Zach Scott discussed water and boating safety. They stressed the importance of always wearing a properly fitted life jacket and always staying with the boat in the event of an accident.

Excitement built when Grummer and Biologist Kurt Meek displayed live fish during a discussion of fish identification.

Youngsters than received bait and tackle courtesy of Berkley and The Crazy Minnow Co., a Clear Lake fishing supply store, before heading to the waters of Clear Lake for the Take-A-Kid Fishing Tournament.

Matt and Kari Leibrand of Mason City were taking their son Reece, 2, on his first fishing outing.

“He’s more interested in the bobbers than fishing,” Kari said.

“At least he’s happy,” Matt said.

Matt was happy as well, primarily because thunderstorms in the day’s forecast failed to develop.

“In my experience if it’s 50 percent (chance of rain) and I have to work it won’t rain,” Matt joked, “and if I have the day off it’s the 50 percent that rains.”

Jaxen Andrews of Mason City, 3, was also fishing for the first time with his parents John and Jenny. He was excited but also a bit intimidated by his first fish, a yellow bass.

“Lets do it again,” Jaxen pleaded impatiently as John unhooked the wiggly yellow.

North Iowa natives Ryan and Amber Roske just moved to Clear Lake this year after spending some time in Minnesota.

The couple and their sons Braeden, 9, and Gavin, 6, have been fishing regularly this spring, catching crappies, yellow bass and catfish.

“This is the first year he’s ever caught catfish,” Amber said of her husband.

The Roske boys had outstanding luck during the tournament, bringing in eight cats weighing over 40 pounds.

“It was just one after another,” Ryan said.

After the tournament the kids regrouped to weigh their catch and enjoy lunch and prizes.

“It was a great crowd, and I think the majority of them came back (for lunch),” said Clear Lake Fishing Club Vice President Jeff Giesman. He noted every child who returned for the weigh-in received a prize.

“The day turned out good,” Giesman added. “This is perfect.”

Also on June 7, more than 70 youngsters and adults turned out at East Park for the annual Lefty Lewis Fishing Derby sponsored by Mason City Parks and Recreation.

DNR’s Meek led a fish identification seminar to begin the derby. After that, “Pretty much everybody just took off and started fishing,” said Doug Oberbroeckling, an intern with Parks and Recreation and the coordinator of the event.

Becky Elsbernd of Mason City kept busy baiting hooks and removing white suckers caught from Willow Creek by her three children, Nathan, 13, Britta, 11, and Markus, 8.

“There’s no fishing involved for me,” she joked. “We don’t really get out fishing much beyond the derby, which is too bad. Maybe this will motivate us.”

That’s exactly the goal, according to Brian Pauly with Parks and Recreation.

“It gets people down to East Park,” he said of the event.

Contestants enjoyed games and refreshments during the derby and many received prizes at the weigh-in that followed. Several contestants brought in “keeper”- sized smallmouth bass, largemouth bass and catfish, including a 5.5-pounder landed by 9-year-old Destiny Hoffrogge of Mason City that would have been exciting for an angler of any age.

The white suckers landed by the Elsbernd crew were considerably smaller, but that didn’t dampen their enthusiasm for the derby.

“We’ve had some pretty good times over the years,” Becky said. “It makes fishing more fun.”

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See photo galleries from these events as well as the Clear Lake Walleye Classic at


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