PHIPPSBURG – Few of the two dozen youth fishing in kayaks on Center Pond last weekend were new to the casting part.

Hailey Strout of Portland was one participant. And she made the most of it.

“I like to catch the sunfish the best. It just has such beautiful colors, and to think I caught such a beautiful fish is cool,” said Strout, 10, while sitting cross-legged on the back of a kayak.

For most of the other young anglers who attended the second annual Maine Kids Kayak Fishing Tournament, the kayak-fishing approach changed an already loved adventure into an easier affair.

For most of four hours on the small pond beside Route 209, fish were hauled in regularly, from sunfish to perch to crappies, and even some nice bass.

This was the seventh year for the adult kayak fishing tournament created by Scott Shea of Seaspray Kayaking in Brunswick, but only the second for the kids tournament the day before. The adult tournament is a fundraiser for the state’s Hooked on Fishing program, which encourages youth to fish.

After little was made of the event last year, Shea hoped for a bigger crowd of youth anglers last weekend. He brought several volunteers to teach fishing and kayaking skills. Yet only about two dozen youth showed.

However, those who came out said they’d be back. In fact, most of those who competed were fishing veterans.

Casting from a seated watercraft was the only new piece for these pros. And they all embraced it.

“I go to fish near the reeds, or the hanging trees. I’ve seen some stuff on that on TV. I’ve caught six to seven fish, perch and sunfish,” said Zach Boyle, 12, of Brunswick, who doesn’t fish often, but said he wants to do more.

What the kids kayak tournament did was show youth anglers how to get closer to the fish.

“We tried it last year and adults were pretty skeptical that kids could fish from kayaks. But this is a protected pond, the right venue. The kids are having a blast, and they’re catching fish. They’re seeing how easy it is,” Shea said.

Take Benny Brewer, 9, of Phippsburg. He hauled in a nice perch among the reeds and said he was proud of the catch, even if he wasn’t about to offer more information than that.

“If it’s a place I usually catch fish, I like to go. But I don’t want to give away those spots,” Brewer said while fishing with his father, David.

And Dana Hinchliffe, 12, of Portland, who fishes from his yard on the Fore River most days, wandered on his own as he searched out the best fish habitat in his peddle-powered kayak.

“I knew those wide big logs would have some bass around them. It’s good shelter. It has structure. It just sort of makes sense,” said Hinchliffe after hauling in a 4-pound bass.

Karen Hinchliffe likes what fishing does for her son and thought he took right to the kayak he peddled, one of the many that were free to use at the tournament.

“I think it’s calming. He’s very active otherwise. He sprints, he plays baseball, basketball, soccer. Everything he does is very high-energy,” Hinchliffe said. “My husband and I fish. But Dana has his own views about how to do it.”

A few who turned out were new to fishing, like Gabby Walker of Bath.

For Walker and her parents, Christine and Cullen, it was a wake-up call to get on the water.

“She’s pretty busy. She horseback rides and swims and plays field hockey and lacrosse. And we go out on the bike path,” Christine Walker said of her 5-year-old. “This is nice for her. Her grandfather’s family in Phippsburg all fish. We could go with them all the time. We will now.”

The volunteers from Seaspray Kayak, the Phippsburg sportsman’s club and IFW who helped make the kids tournament possible, were not discouraged by the low numbers. The second year of the tournament was a good step, with the right message, they said.

“It’s nice. Even where there is not a huge turnout, we have depth here,” said Lynn Kay of the Phippsburg club. 

Staff Writer Deirdre Fleming can be contacted at 791-6452 or at:

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