Fishing has been one of south Louisiana’s favorite pastimes since long before anyone can remember.

To that end, the local arm of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is holding registration for one of the north shore’s most-anticipated fishing events of the year.

I’m talking about the 22nd annual Youth Fishing Event at Bogue Chitto National Wildlife Refuge. This year’s derby will be June 6 at the public-use area just off Interstate 59 (Exit 11) north of Pearl River and Slidell. The popular event can accommodate 175 children ages 4-12 and will be held from 7:30 a.m. to 11 a.m. that day.

So how popular is this youth fishing event? Well, considering it’s been around for 22 years, “that’s an accomplishment in itself,” said David Stoughton, the supervisory park ranger of Southeast Louisiana National Wildlife Refuges.

“The fishing event is a great way to build strong relationships between young people and the outdoors,” he said. “For a lot of the kids out there, this is there first catch. It can begin a lifelong love of the outdoors, for sure.”

Stoughton said he’s seen that much firsthand.

“Whenever we go into the public and talk about the youth fishing event … more and more people tell us ‘I did that when I was a kid.’ Now, 22 years later, they’re wanting to be involved as sponsors or volunteers. And in some cases, they’re bringing their own kids out there. That’s a special relationship.”

The pond fished during the event is stocked each year with at least 1,000 fish of different species, Stoughton said. That way, just about everyone is assured to catch something. Prizes will be awarded in several different categories, and the catches will be measured on site.

Cost is $15 per child, which is a bargain, considering that each child receives a rodeo T-shirt, a rod and reel to keep, tackle and bait. Throw in a complimentary lunch, which the Friends of Louisiana Wildlife Refuges does each year, and you have the makings of a great morning with the kids.

“We couldn’t even think of doing something like this without the help of tremendous sponsors and our Friends group,” Stoughton said. “It’s so encouraging to have the kind of opportunity to work with them all and do something to help people connect with the outdoors.”

Because only 175 young anglers can participate, it’s imperative to register for the event now if you are interested. Registration closes May 1 and usually is filled by that date.

Forms can be picked up and completed at Southeast Louisiana National Wildlife Refuges Headquarters, 61389 La. 434, in Lacombe. Registration may be paid in cash, check or money order. No phone reservations will be accepted.

Call the SELA NWR Headquarters at (985) 882-2000 from 7:30 a.m. to 4 p.m. on weekdays for information.

Andrew Canulette covers recreation and leisure activities for the St. Tammany Advocate. To reach him, email acanulette@charter.net.