I couldn’t have been any older than six when I caught my first fish, but that memory is still very clear in my mind. I was sitting in a jonboat in the middle of my grandparents’ pond in northwest Arkansas with my dad, my Uncle “Foo,” and my cousin, Greg, and had my little Zebco combo hanging over the side. I was fishing a minnow dropped a few feet below a bobber, and, as it turned out, the minnow had gotten off and I was pulling a bare hook through the water. To my surprise, my bobber went under and I happily hauled what I now call a “1/4-pounder with cheese,” or an average-sized bream, onto the floor of that leaky old boat.
Fast-forward some 17 years, and I now have the chance to help some little girl or boy catch their first fish, along with a few family members and volunteers representing a variety of conservation and service organizations.
On Saturday, September 24, to coincide with National Hunting and Fishing Day (which also happens to be a free fishing day for Georgia residents on any public waters, including WMAs), there were 15 events going on around our state to educate children on outdoor activities and bolster conservationism among our youth. But, the main intent of this day was to give the kids of Georgia a chance to have some fun outdoors.
One such happening was the Kid’s Fishing Event at Buford Dam, which was hosted at Lower Pool Park on the Chattahoochee River by Georgia WRD, the Army Corps of Engineers and the Tailwater Chapter of Trout Unlimited, with volunteers from a number of local organizations showing up to bait hooks and help land the fish.
Around 150 kids showed up, fishing poles in hand, with hopes of hooking a big fish. “Hopefully, after attending an event like this,” said Tailwater TU President Duane Stalnaker, “they will want to spend time in the outdoors, keep out of trouble, and become good stewards of the environment, not to mention having a lot of fun along the way.”
Before any of the kids arrived, 1,500 rainbow trout had already been stocked and an additional 1,500 were stocked throughout the day, resulting in many kids heading home with their limit and big smiles on their faces.
When not fishing, guests were treated to hot dogs provided by the Georgia Chapter of the National Wild Turkey Federation, showings of live birds of prey, and fly-tying and fly-casting demonstrations. Two lucky attendees also walked away with free GONetwork SEEDS memberships. The day concluded at 1:00 pm, although some stayed longer to catch a few more.
The corps also lent a big hand by withholding high-flow generation out of the dam until the event was finished.
So, this time next year, take some time out of your weekend and volunteer at one of these great kids events across the state. Or, better yet, set aside a few hours next weekend and take a kid fishing. It’ll be rewarding for you, and may end up being a day that he or she will never forget, even if all they catch is a 1/4-pounder with cheese!