WALKER — Anglers of all ages, under blue skies unmarred by a single cloud, ringed the large pond at Sidney Hutchinson Park on Saturday for the third annual Fishing Rodeo, an event that drew large crowds outdoors for a day of fishing and fun.
The fishing rodeo was sponsored by the city’s recreation department and the state Department of Wildlife and Fisheries with assistance from the Bass Fishing Club at Walker High School. The community fishing experience was part of the LDWF’s “Get Out and Fish” campaign, a statewide initiative to encourage people to learn the joy of fishing and being in the outdoors in the Sportsman’s Paradise.
In preparation for the fishing rodeo, the LDWF stocked the pond with blue catfish several weeks ago and the City of Walker enhanced the chances of catching fish by adding 800 more pounds of blue catfish on the Wednesday before the event. Anglers reported various degrees of success in landing catfish, a sought-after ingredient for a typical Louisiana fish fry, with some showing ice chests loaded with a dozen or more fish inside while others counted only a few of the barbed beauties. However, most participants reported that just being out in the park was worth the effort.
The Youth Fishing Competition was for anglers aged 15 and under. Goody bags were given out to the first 50 youth registrants, and first, second and third place prizes were presented to the anglers who brought in the heaviest stringers of fish. Raffle prizes were also available for participants.
Hours for the fishing rodeo were from 7 a.m.-11:30 a.m. with the awards ceremony was held at the conclusion of the fishing hours. At about 9 a.m. Meg Gurzynski, a Walker city employee who was overseeing registration, said that 75 young fishermen had already registered for the event. She noted that almost all of the children entered in the fishing rodeo were accompanied by parents, grandparents, other relatives or friends pushing the number of the crowd gathered around the pond into the several hundreds.
“It’s a beautiful day and he people have really come out for the rodeo. Everyone seems to be having a good time,’ she said.
Ryan Martin, director of special events for the city, said the rodeo, “is a great opportunity for the city to give kids a time and place to get out in the sunshine and learn to enjoy the great sport of fishing. We appreciate what the Department of Wildlife and Fisheries does to encourage fishing and we keep having the rodeo each year because it shows LDWF that we want to be part of their ‘Get Out and Fish’ program. As long as we hold the rodeos they will keep stocking the lake. We are very pleased with the turnout today. Our great park is alive with a activity this morning … soccer teams are playing in other parts of the park, people are using the walking trails, just another nice day in our park.”
William Methvien, fishing with his granddaughters Amber Methvien and Brythe Copeland, said the girls love to fish. “I usually take them out in my boat and if they know grandpa is going out in a boat, they make sure they can come with me. The fishing rodeo is fun for them and it’s a great opportunity to get out of the house and be in the outdoors. I’m glad we came,” Methvien said.
Cameron Woods and Allison Jones were fishing with their grandfather, Lorenzo Jones, and they were enjoying a highly successful morning of fishing. The children had already landed about a dozen catfish, some of them weighing a couple of pounds. Lorenzo Jones said he has been teaching the children how to fish since they were very young. “I take them fishing on Lake Verret and Cameron won second place in a bream fishing contest a while back. I think it’s important to teach children how to fish. It’s a great pastime and it’s something they can enjoy for the rest of their lives. They love to fish and I love to take them fishing,” he said.
High school students Devin Bellow and Gage Shelton also enjoyed a banner day hauling in a number of large catfish. Bellow said the duo fish at the pond often and usually catch fish. "We have already caught a bunch … we quit counting … but I think we have 12-15 fish,” Bellow said. The pair used hot dogs soaked in chicken livers as bait. The two were not hesitant in handling the slimy liver or in removing the equally slimy catfish from their lines.
Stacey Holcomb, fishing with her two children and one of their friends, said the group was enjoying their day in the park. “Britton, my little girl, played flag football with her team earlier and then we came to the fishing rodeo. It’s made for a nice day in the park. This fishing rodeo is a great treat for the children and it gets them outside on such a beautiful day. The park is certainly one of the many nice things about Walker,” she said.
The Walker High Bass Fishing team volunteered to assist the young anglers with their efforts to land a fish. Team members Hayden McKenzie and Mathew Liemann, said that helping youngster learn to fish is part of what they do as a fishing team. Liemann added, “I love being here and helping the kids learn about fishing. All the members of our team started fishing when they were little kids … I caught my first fish when I three or four years old, so it’s a way we can help them learn that fishing is fun,” he said. He added, “once you catch a fish, you are hooked for life.”
Participants in the rodeo were required to bring their own reels, rods, poles and bait and those over the age of 16 were required to have a valid Louisiana fishing license. Those were the only requirements for the participants in what proved to be a day of fishing fun in the sun in Sydney Hutchinson Park.