This is Home: The history behind the fishing derby

The derby started at City Park 44 years ago.
A look at the previous 44 years of the derby
Published: Apr. 14, 2023 at 6:38 PM EDT
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PARKERSBURG, W.Va. (WTAP) - Fishing Derby organizer and daughter of founder Sheri Cox talked about how her father former Mayor Al Smit’s memory lives on every year.

The annual Parkersburg Fishing Derby is set to take place Saturday at both Parkersburg City Park and Southwood Park but started at one pond 44 years ago.

“The first derby was in 1979, and that was just City Park; they didn’t have a lake at Southwood. Southwood joined in 1981, and 1982 was when they had both of them,” according to Cox.

Smith started the fishing derby right here in City Park because of his love of fishing and community.

“He himself enjoyed fishing, and he loved the kids in the Mid-Ohio Valley, well all of them, but he wanted to give them something to do. He knew a lot of the children couldn’t get to the mountains to catch trout, so he wanted to bring the trout to Parkersburg,” said Cox

Starting the derby helped Smith’s motto come to life as kids learned how to fish.

“His motto was you give a man a fish he eats for one day; if you teach him to fish he can eat for many days,” remembered Cox.

According to Cox, they used to allow senior citizens to fish once the kids were done, and she hopes that makes a return in the future.

“That would be wonderful, of course they don’t need a license or anything so the senior citizens can come back. I hope to bring it back as soon as possible,” said Cox.