By Shirley Scott

Going fishing to relax and unwind may be the goal of some people, but the young anglers at the Annual Bullock County Kid's Fishing Derby held at Wehle Nature Center on Saturday, June 8 was all but relaxing! High energy spewed from nearly 90 young anglers, ages 4-15, as they cast their lines into the Wood Duck Pond.

Young anglers baited their hooks with chicken liver and anticipation. Their eyes fastened on a fishing line that may have crisscrossed with another line in the pond. Before too long, shrills and screams alerted everyone of a sure catch on a hook. Jubilation was both seen and heard across the pond as anglers reeled in the main catch of the day - catfish.

Anderson Byrd, 11, with a first-time cast, caught a decent-sized catfish. His reaction exuded confidence, as he stood stately alongside Commissioner Don Larkins, his fishing coach. “That felt good,” Byrd said. Commissioner Larkins added, “I am glad to be here to see the children’s excitement, and to see the parents and other supporters that make this annual event a reality.”

As ripples rolled across the pond, Danika Sutton, 10, reeled in a second catfish she had caught. Her father wrestled with the catch to remove the hook from its mouth. Danika smiled wide as her father demonstrated bravery.

One of the younger anglers, Brayden Patterson, 7, yelled out, as he held up his catch, “I’m going to win!” His father, bent down by his side and whispered, “You’re already a winner, Son.”

A former angler, Nathan Brewer, 17, shared his thoughts about the Derby. “Fishing helps the environment. It can help feed families for a lifetime, and it’s a safe and legal hobby”, Brewer suggested.

Along with parents, many adult supporters and sponsors attended the derby fish-off. Tim Walker, Bass Master Coach, brought a group from his Eufaula High School Bass Fishing Team to assist with taking fish off hooks for the beginning anglers. He encouraged several anglers to grow in the sport and seek fishing scholarships in the near future.

Michael Parker, C.A.M.O. Board Member, stressed, “Being a part of an organization that trains children to be productive in society increases their desire to give back to the community as they become adults themselves.”

Sgt. William Freeman, Department of Conservation & Natural Resources stated, “By establishing partnerships with youth organizations like C.A.M.O., the outdoor heritage is preserved. This type of event helps with Outreach, Recruiting, Retention, and Reactivation for a sustainable environment.”

The Annual Bullock County Kid's Fishing Derby of 2019 had overcast skies; quick and sudden downpours of rain; and spurts of gusty winds. Weather conditions did not deter these young anglers from their task of fishing to catch something. Eventually, the sun did shine toward the end of the day, which sparked rays of hope for next year’s fishing derby.

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