A fish tale with a strong local hook

The Landsman Kill Stocking Club in Rhinebeck kicked off its ever-popular annual fishing contest last weekend.

Sponsored by local business owners, the event begins with a community fish-stocking afternoon and is followed the next day by an early-morning community breakfast that marks the start of the three-week-long fishing contest.

A large crowd of families turned out at Rhinebeck High School April 5 to meet a fish-husbandry truck loaded with approximately 1,000 trout to stock the Landsman Kill along Route 308.

Kids and their parents were then taxied in the backs of pick-up trucks that follow behind the fish truck, which stops at about 10 areas along the stream. At each stop, the kids run to the stream to fill their buckets with water, retrieve fish from the truck, then carry their buckets back to the stream to deposit the fish.

“My favorite part is getting the fish from the truck,” said Parker Ruger, 7, of Rhinebeck.

“He’s been doing this since he was a baby,” said his mom, Rebecca Ruger of Rhinebeck. She noted that Parker will join his good friend, Ryan Phillips, 6, of Rhinebeck in the fishing contest to be held over the next three weeks.

Wesley Miller, 18, of Rhinebeck has been participating since he was 3 years old. This year, he volunteered to help pass the fish from the truck to the kids waiting in line with their buckets.

“It’s been the best part of my life for years and years,” said Wesley, who is off to the State University of New York at Cobleskill in the fall to study wildlife management.

“I love it. I’ve won the contest for most fish several times, and I’ve won the prize for biggest fish, which is having the fish mounted. I have three of them now,” he added.

Rich Matthies, the president of the Stocking Club and owner of the Mobil station and Convenience Corner in Rhinebeck, is proud of the history and ongoing success of the contest, which is now in its 56th year.

“One of the main reasons this works out so well is, we’ve been very lucky to have the cooperation of landowners along the stream on Route 308,” Matthies said. He noted that the fish, which are bought with donated funds, have also been successful. “Most of the fish we get are rainbow trout, some brown, some brookies…they all do well in the stream.”

Ryan Phillips and Parker Ruger are all set to lend a helping hand. Elizabeth Bryant / The Observer
Ryan Phillips and Parker Ruger are all set to lend a helping hand. Elizabeth Bryant / The Observer

Joan Winne, the Deputy Town Clerk and a volunteer for the Stocking Club, said, “It’s a great way of unplugging kids and getting them outside. We recommend it to kids ages 3-16, but really, the event is open to people of all ages.”

At the end of the three-week fishing contest, a picnic is held at which the participating anglers are awarded prizes for everything from “most persistent fisher,” to “biggest fish caught.” There’s also a “sportsman award,” sponsoring a week of environmental summer camp at the state Department of Environmental Conservation’s Camp DeBruce.

For Matthies, it’s the enthusiasm of the kids who participate every year that inspires him — and keeps him and the other volunteers returning.

“They all turn up in their rain slickers and boots, in the rain or sleet and cold weather…it doesn’t matter. They love to put the fish in the stream,” Matthies said. “The Landsman Kill is alive and well.”

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