4th of July Fishing Derby

Before the 4th of July, my town hosts a “Fishing Derby” at the public beach near my house. It always starts early–6 or 7am–on July 3rd, and is primarily attended by families with kids ages 5-11. Kids bring or are given little, goofy fishing poles and fish off the dock for perch, pike minnows, and more. Mostly perch. If/when kids catch a fish, adults help them reel it in, unhook it, weigh and measure it, and release it back into Lake Washington. This is also a competition, and at the end of the derby (maybe 10-11am?), the kids who caught the longest fish, heaviest fish, and most fish are given trophies. All of the kids who participate are given little goody bags (bobbers, basic fishing lures, etc), and there’s also usually free donuts and coffee at the dock. 

4th of July is probably the most community-centric time of the year for my town, and the fishing derby is a classic, more kid-oriented activity. It’s been going on for as long as I can remember, and my Dad (prominent fisherman) is usually one of the ones helping to run it. I participated every year when I was younger, and now show up sometimes to help weigh and manage fish, hand out prizes, and make sure kids are safe and having fun. I think the fact that this is a big part of the community activities reflects a lot of Washington state culture, particularly for communities near the lake and Puget Sound–Lake Washington is truly massive/a very present part of Seattle. Seafood and fishing are a pretty big part of local culture, so it’s fun to find a low-commitment, easy way for younger kids to get involved.

Context: The informant is a 20 year old student at USC. Originally from Bellevue, WA. Non-binary, white and of European descent (primarily Irish and Italian).

Interpretation: This fun tradition demonstrates the way that fishing and Lake Washington influence culture in Seattle – typical celebrations of the 4th of July have nothing to do with fishing. It speaks less to the significance of the 4th of July itself to community building, and more to the fact that residents of Seattle have taken this opportunity to come together and strengthen their community through fishing. It creates an ingroup that is more unique to Washington state (particularly Seattle or Bellevue) than to America alone.