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'Scouting' for Catfish

Young anglers enjoy fishing, even if they won't touch the fish

By: Mike Suchan, OutdoorChannel.com

Zailynn Sanders, 6, (left) and Gradyn Anderson, 7, pose with Webelos leader Cedric Patterson and a mess of fish.

Zailynn Sanders wouldn’t touch the fish.

Ok, he was 6, but the cub scout would have little to do with the stringer of catfish. He did get next to his Webelos’ leader, Cedric Patterson, to pose for a picture. Yet Sanders kept his distance, keeping Patterson between him and the fish. A feel of one of the fish’s slimy skin, or even a close look, was out of the question.

“What, you don’t like fish sticks?” Little Rock Pack 467 scoutmaster James Turner asked.

Turner brought eight scouts with him for the morning outing of the Ashland Fishing Derby in Jacksonville, Ark., something the specialty chemical company has held for 13 years, giving away prizes to kids who bring in the biggest fish of the hour or the most weight from the morning.

Ashland Plant Manager Ralph Smith evens stacks the odds in favor of the youth, working with the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission to have 200 pounds of catfish stocked in the small lake the day before the event. He and his crew buy an assortment of fishing gear, rod and reel combos, tackle boxes, etc, to give away.

“We enjoy doing this,” Smith said. “We’ve been doing it for 13 years and we’ll continue to do this as long as I’m here. It’s a good deal to the community … a lot get to come out and do something they might not be able to do normally.”

Turner concurs. His pack of mostly third- and fourth-graders from the city were being introduced to the sport of fishing. Some walked away with the gear that could send them to a local pond on their own.

“They’re boys, so they like outdoor activities,” Turner said. “For a lot of them, it will be the first time they catch a fish. For some, it’s their first time fishing.”

A fishing derby draws kids. With the chance of winning some fishing gear, events like this across the country help introduce youth to fishing. And when a stocked pond produces action, it can even hook them.

Brandon Steadman, 11, didn’t need much convincing that fishing can be fun. The day was a continuation of tradition with his father, David, who takes Brandon out most Saturdays.

The youth baited his hook with a nightcrawler and cast it confidently off the park’s fishing pier like he’d done many times before. When he was only 4, Brandon caught the biggest fish of his life, a 13-pound catfish.

Others were beginning what they hope turns into a family tradition. Teresa Garcia took grandson Ayden Pannell, 4, out early and they had a cooler full of catfish. Hungry after a full morning of catching, Pannell munched on a mid-morning snack as Garcia placed a new piece of chicken liver on the hook and sent it into the water.

Garcia said she used to take her son fishing and now is introducing her grandson to the rewarding activity. She woke him at 5 a.m. and hit the lake by 6:30. Driving down, she said he asked, “’Are we going to fish in the dark?’ A little while later I looked over and he’s sleeping.”

He woke up to fish. She reported he did great reeling in most of the 8 or so fish they had on ice in the cooler, with a fish dinner planned that evening. But the youth was still shy about handling any fish.

“When he gets them on the bank, he’ll run from them,” she said. “He does not want to touch them.”

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