American Queen hits nets at City Front, snags fishing derby

Published 12:00 am Monday, May 21, 2001

Fishing nets that were to be used in the youth fishing derby Saturday are piled on a truck at City Front after the American Queen’s thrusters ripped the nets as the boat was landing. (The Vicksburg Post/MELANIE DUNCAN)

[05/21/01] Plans for a youth fishing derby at Vicksburg’s City Front were snagged Saturday by the side thrusters from the American Queen tour boat.

Two sessions that had been expected to draw up to 1,500 youths ages 6 to 15 had been scheduled as part of the Sportsman’s Association of Black Bass Anglers Mega-Bucks Tournament, which begins in earnest next weekend.

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Mayor Robert Walker said in a typewritten press release distributed hours after the Saturday morning accident that the fishing jamboree would be rescheduled for Friday or May 25, Memorial Day.

The derby is part of a week of fishing-related activities hosted by SABBA and Ole River Bass Club of Jackson and sponsored by the City of Vicksburg.

“The 13-foot-deep net anchored in eight feet of water was ripped by side thrusters from the American Queen about an hour before the youth derby was scheduled to begin,” Walker wrote in his press release.

The boat, which docked in Vicksburg at about 7 a.m., spent the day at City Front.

The net was destroyed, and thousands of pounds of catfish stocked for the derby were lost, Walker said.

He said arrangements had been made with the New Orleans-based tour boat company regarding the net. He did not say what arrangements were made, and electronic phone messages at Delta Steamboat Co. said no spokesman would be available until Monday. The bass tournament scheduled for next weekend will not be affected by the delay, Walker said.

Walker said that the tour boat company had been told to watch for the net, which he said was marked with lights, and he did not know what caused the accident.

Thrusters are small side jet engines that help boats in shallow waters.

Plans to bring the tournament and youth fishing derby to Vicksburg were announced in March after the Vicksburg Board of Mayor and Aldermen voted 2-1 to spend $40,000 for advertising the event. The decision to spend more than three times the city’s entire annual advertising brought mixed reactions from people, many of whom complained that the amount was too much to spend.

South Ward Alderman Sam Habeeb, who cast the dissenting vote, characterized the $40,000 sponsorship as “out of whack” when compared with the $2,500 for advertising in the Miss Mississippi Pageant.

North Ward Alderman Gertrude Young has said that the controversy surrounding the sponsorship was racially motivated.

Organizers with SABBA have said they expect about 400 participants in next weekend’s competition with an economic impact of about $1.2 million. Participation in the main tournament is limited to members of the organization.