Eagle Creek Fishing Derby Lets Kids Fish for Free

My kids love fishing. Every year at the State Fair, they want to fish in the DNR pond. When they see the fishing game at carnivals, they’re all in. They tried their hand with a fishing pole at Indiana University’s Bug Fest a few years ago and last year, we took them “real fishing” for the first time. The Eagle Creek Fishing Derby is an easy way to introduce kids to fishing and allow them to test out this relaxing hobby without investing in a fishing license or gear.

Eagle Creek Kid’s Fishing Derby

The free event at Eagle Creek’s Lilly Lake is designed to get kids ages 4-14 interested in going fishing and teach families how to fish together. For one day, the Indiana DNR lifts the fishing license requirements and lets everyone go fishing at Eagle Creek. The date for this year’s Fishing Derby is June 1, 2024, from 9 am-2 pm.

The volunteers that put this event on provide fishing poles (there are a limited number available on a first-come, first-served basis), bait, and instruction. But there’s more – they also cook up a free lunch for everyone and feed you AND give all the kids a goody bag!

A girl with braids holds a fishing rod at the Eagle Creek Fishing Derby.

Eagle Creek Fishing Derby: What You Need to Know

You’ll want to bring chairs to sit in, sunblock, and bug spray. A lot of participants catch fish, but not everyone does. When you catch one, a volunteer will come over and help you identify and release it.

There’s usually a gate entrance fee at Eagle Creek, but Fishing Derby participants will have their fee waived!

Parking may get a little sparse, so plan on hiking in or getting dropped off near the pond if the lot is full.

Registration for the Eagle Creek Fishing Derby opens on April 1. Pre-registration is required and only the first 250 participants will be accepted. 

If you have your own fishing poles, bring them along – there are a limited number of loaner poles available. Plus, it’s a great time to get familiar with your own fishing equipment.

The Eagle Creek Kid’s Fishing Derby will take place rain or shine, but in the event of severe weather, it will be rescheduled for the following Sunday.

If you’re looking for places to go fishing with kids, here are a few ideas.

More to Do at Eagle Creek Park

Eagle Creek Park is Indy’s largest city park and is packed full of exciting activities and natural escapes. Following the Eagle Creek Fishing Derby, spend some time exploring before you head home!

Take to the trails, rent a canoe or kayak, or chill out at the beach. Kids will love the park’s various playgrounds and families can enjoy the summer concert series together. There’s also a Bark Park and a golf course! Eagle Creek truly has something for everyone.

The park has not one, but two nature centers worth your time. The Earth Discovery Center allows guests to get up close to some favorite Indiana creatures, including turtles, snakes, fish, and more. The exhibit spaces, hallways, and even the stairwells are filled with informative displays, while the basement houses a cozy activity corner full of nature-themed books, toys, and art opportunities.

The Eagle Creek Ornithology Center provides the perfect vantage point for gazing out across a nature preserve full of birds and other wildlife. There’s also a birdwatching room with birdfeeders positioned directly outside, giving visitors a chance to see dozens of species within feet of the windows. You can also check out the display of taxidermied specimens in spaces designed to look like their natural habitats. Outside the Ornithology Center, you can visit live birds being rehabilitated by park naturalists.

The Go Ape Treetop Adventure allows guests to soar through the park’s treetops, experiencing Eagle Creek Park and reservoir in a whole new way. The course takes 2-3 hours and includes 5 ziplines, in addition to Tarzan swings, rope ladders, and other challenges. Children 10 and up can participate, but Go Ape also makes a spectacular date. 

A girl sits in a plastic Adirondack chair while fishing at the Eagle Creek Fishing Derby.

Fishing Events & Activities for Kids

Families looking for more fishing opportunities without a license have several options in the Indy area. Take advantage of free fishing days held each year or stop by the DNR fishing pond at the Indiana State Fair. 

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