Anglers worked chunks of marshmallows, worms, kernels of corn, the occasional live cricket and even a piece of Skittle candy onto hooks at fishing rodeos at four BREC park ponds over the weekend as they tried to lure hundreds of freshly stocked rainbow trout and anything else that might bite.
The rodeos come days after BREC stocked ponds across the parish with about 1,100 pounds of hatchery-raised rainbow trout, giving anglers of all abilities — including young beginners and a few crafty old hands — a rare chance to land the non-native cold-water fish in south Louisiana.
“We look forward to this every year,” said Todd Cooke of Central, who was casting alongside his twin 17-year-old daughters in the Sunday afternoon rodeo at Central Community Sports Park. “I’m thrilled — this is the first year they’ve put one up in Central.”
As BREC staff stood by with notepads and measuring boards to size and tally the fish, those young and old worked a variety of gear and techniques as they tried to hook trout, carp, bass and catfish from the Central Park pond, some of them for the first time. Similar rodeos were held Saturday at the Perkins Road and Forest community parks and Sunday morning at the Zachary Community Park.
“It’s going real good,” said Brandon Tynes of Central, fishing the banks of the pond with his 9-year-old daughter, Taryne, who Tynes said was just getting into fishing.
Tynes said Sunday’s outing was the first time he’d fished at the park but that he planned to come back soon. As he chatted, his daughter — who already had two large trout sitting in a bucket on the shore — hooked her third fish, a 13-inch rainbow trout.
“I still haven’t caught my first one,” Tynes said.
BREC staff, comparing notes on the fish the participants landed, handed out awards for the biggest fish, the most caught, the smallest fish, a casting contest held after the fishing rodeo and the overall group trophy for most fish.
Everette Williams, of Baton Rouge, said he hadn’t fished in several years but came to the park Sunday after a nephew tipped him off that the trout had arrived. Although he hadn’t landed any since early that morning, Williams said he was enjoying himself by the pond.
“I’ll catch something sooner or later,” he said.
Stacy Washington, who appeared to be going for volume over size as she landed a steady stream of roughly 3-inch fish from the reed-lined banks using live crickets as bait, said she’d learned to fish as a kid on outings with her mother and father. On Sunday, Washington was fishing alongside her 14-year-old son, Jay Hasbert.
“I think it’s good to have kids out enjoying nature and the fun things in life,” Washington said. “This is one thing that’ll get them to put down the cellphone.”
Nearby, Paul and Jeanie Jines, who live just across the road from Central Park, said they weren’t having much luck landing any big fish, either. Jeanie Jines said she’d caught a couple of roughly 5-inch crappies but was hoping to catch some rainbow trout.
“I’ve seen a couple jump. Sure would like to see some on the hook,” she said. “I’m planning on coming fishing again tomorrow.”
Cooke, who said he’d learned to favor spinner bait and “anything on the bottom” over more than 15 years competing in the BREC fishing rodeos, said he’d been eagerly waiting for the trout to arrive. The annual rodeos, Cooke said, had become a family tradition and helped get his four children — the twin teenage daughters fishing by his side Sunday and two grown sons — hooked on the sport.
“This is really what’s gotten my kids into fishing,” Cooke said. “The love of fishing has been born at these rodeos.”