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Weekend fishing derby draws crowd

ADDISON — The 33rd annual Father’s Day Fishing Derby opened at midnight this past Friday, and Katie Holler and her husband, Mick, of Addison wasted no time in getting lines in the water.
“We were fishing all night,” Holler said Saturday evening at the Addison Sportsman Cottages. “I went home and slept a few this afternoon.”
Mick Holler has won the Extraordinary category of the derby in past years.
The Sportsman Cottages are one of a dozen official weigh stations for the contest, which is sponsored by Lake Champlain International (LCI), an organization devoted to preserving the resource that is Lake Champlain. The contest took place from Saturday to Monday at 4 p.m.
“We had over 300 fish weighed in this weekend,” reported Penny Henderson, co-owner of the Sportsman Cottages, on Tuesday, “probably at least 100 people came in each day.”
The LCI Father’s Day Fishing Derby is the nonprofit organization’s principal fundraising event of the year. The contest has been a Lake Champlain tradition since 1982.
“We literally have people coming from Europe and Alaska” to fish in the event, said LCI’s Executive Director James Ehlers.
The goal of the event is to engage people in conservation “through recreation, not preaching,” Ehlers added, because “people who have a stake, who literally depend on this resource” are more likely to support conservation efforts than those for whom the lake is a distant concept.
Lake Champlain is Vermont’s “canary in the coalmine,” Ehlers explained. The fragility of the lake’s multiple ecosystems reflects state- and nation-wide effects of environmental degradation.
LCI’s Action Plan consists of three main goals: improving Lake Champlain’s water health, restoring the lake’s native fisheries, and strengthening citizen involvement through education and awareness.
The derby’s rules encourage responsible use of the fishery. Points are awarded for length and weight of fish, but for a catch to be awarded maximum points it must be released after it is measured.
Though the Derby draws participants from all over the nation, locals were strongly represented at the Addison Weigh Station this weekend. Lucas Plouffe of Weybridge took first place in the Junior Warm Water contest with a 25-pound, 3-foot-long catfish caught Sunday morning.
“The lake has changed significantly; it’s going to keep changing,” says Ehlers, but with the right approach, the changes can happen “mindfully, not through happenstance or ignorance.”
“We’ve created the problem, we can solve it.”

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