A Milford tradition: Local couple at the helm of Children's Trout Derby

When the 48th annual Milford Children’s Trout Derby kicks off early in the morning May 7, a local couple that coordinated the event for the Milford Striped Bass Club and the city will probably breathe a deep sigh of satisfied relief.

For the last 10 years or so, Shawn and Jennifer Lalond, who themselves are avid fresh and saltwater fishermen, have co-chaired the Children’s Trout Derby — largely out of the public spotlight.

There is plenty of behind-the-scenes work and preparation for this popular annual event. And the co-chairs know the work is worth it.

“It’s just so rewarding to see kids catch fish, and their excitement when they catch one,” said Shawn Lalond. The derby is open to children aged 15 and younger. No registration is required, and the event is free.  It will be held at the upper and lower duck ponds from 6 to 9:30 a.m. on May 7.

The Lalonds, who are members of the Milford Striped Bass Club, were in their early 30s when they began chairing the derby. Their nephew, Anikin, fishes for trout every year and loves it, Jennifer said.

The trout that children like Anikin catch each year aren’t native to the duck ponds, hinting at the amount of work and coordination needed to organize the event. The Lalonds are particularly appreciative of the event sponsors, and all of the volunteers who help out. Working with a trout hatchery in Connecticut, members of the Milford Striped Bass Club stock approximately 800 trout in the ponds the night before the fishing derby.

They then wait for the next morning, but with one main concern.

“I guess one of our biggest challenges, unfortunately, is stopping the adults from fishing before the children get to the ponds,” Shawn said. “We do our best to discourage that.”

What the Milford Striped Bass Club does encourage is the attendance of as many children as possible, even those who have never fished before. There will be prizes for the largest trout in four different categories, which will be handed out at an awards ceremony at about 10:30 a.m. on derby day. And every child will receive a free grab bag at the conclusion of the day’s events.

About the club
While the annual Children’s Trout Derby is the most popular and perhaps well-known event sponsored by the Milford Striped Bass Club, the group has been active in other ways since its inception in the late 1960s.

The club was formed by a dozen men who were interested in fishing, particularly for striped bass. From the late 1970s through the early 1980s, the club boasted more than 100 members, according to public sources.  There are currently 50 to 90 members throughout the state, the Lalonds said.

The couple is somewhat typical of the club’s younger members, both with full-time jobs but an abiding interest in angling.

The club traditionally sponsors other fishing competitions, as well, and is active in public hearings regarding fishing regulations and environmental issues. For example, the Milford Striped Bass Club was instrumental in planning and building the Clarks Pond fishway ladder.  This enabled Alewife and Blueback herring to return to their original spawning areas, according to the group’s website.

The Trout Derby
Former Milford resident Bob Mahoney started the derby almost 50 years ago with local businessman Pete Hebert.

Mahoney said he grew up in Milford, and one day all those years ago he was driving by the pond and thought it was a shame that no one was fishing there. So he went to Pete Hebert at Hebert Jewelers and they each agreed to put up $50 to stock the pond and organize the fishing day for children.

With 120 fish released into the Milford waters, the two men expected a couple of dozen kids that first year. Milford’s daily newspaper, the Milford Citizen, had run a small announcement about it — nothing huge, Mahoney said.

Still, 300 children showed up, and that was the start of it all.

Further information about the Annual Children’s Trout Fishing Derby or the Milford Striped Bass Club is available at www.milfordstripedbass.com.