Teach a child to fish, and you'll create a life long fisherman.

This was the goal of the Fort McPherson Youth Fishing Rodeo Oct. 10.

The fishing rodeo, hosted by the Directorate of Family Morale, Welfare and Recreation, in partnership with the city of East Point and the United Bassmasters of Atlanta, allowed more than 54 children from the Fort McPherson, Fort Gillem and surrounding communities to fish in the man-made lake near the entrance to Fort McPherson.

"It's a family event. We want to get the children involved," said Jerry Askin, intramural sports director, Fort McPherson DFMWR.

Families and kids were out in force despite the previous night's rain and the outlook for more inclement weather. Fishermen ranged in age from 2 to 14 years old and in experience from first timers to old hands.

No matter the skill levels of the fishermen, members of the UBA were on hand to help the kids out.

"This is our third year coming out and assisting kids with fishing," said UBA president James Palmer. "It's about being able to help someone, all about giving back."

Palmer, who has been fishing since he was a boy, more than 40 years, said there are a lot of skills that need to be learned to become an effective fisherman.

Knowing what to do when getting a bite, reading the water to determine where fish are and developing patience are all skills vital to a fisherman, said Palmer.

Patience was one lesson Col. Cheryl Taylor-Whitehead, commander, Lawrence Joel U.S. Army Health Clinic, was hoping her twin children, Kayla and Caleb, 7, were learning.

Their father, Jerome Whitehead, said the two were fishing for the first time. He hoped they would come away from the event with a love of nature and greater appreciation for the outdoors. He also hoped for a little something else, something that might let him get more time behind his own rod and reel.

"Hopefully they'll get hooked, like their dad," he said.

Having the love of fishing passed on among Families was a goal of the event, said Palmer.

"Someone taught me," he said. "One day they'll (the children he was teaching) be teaching other kids."

Besides learning skills on how to fish, Palmer said children were also learning a survival skill.

"In a worst-case scenario, you can fish for food," he said. "Fish are a good thing to eat."

Isiah Bradford, 13, another first-time fisherman, who attended with his uncle, Zuri Carr, a stay-at-home dad, said he was hoping to catch some dinner.

"If I catch a big one, I'll fry it and eat it," he said.

Unfortunately, Bradford only managed to catch two, neither of which was large enough to eat.

It was the case for many of the catches, causing some to remark that the smiles on the children's faces were larger than the fish themselves.

Steven Sparks, 13, son of Ralph Sparks, manpower branch chief, U.S. Army Forces Command G8, faired a little better, catching 10 fish, many big enough to cook. He said some may end up in the frying pan while others will end up stocking a pond near his home.

Fishermen wrangled in 187 fish by the end of the rodeo. Each participants had his or her fish tally counted, with a trophy given out to the fisherman with the most fish caught and the youngest fisherman.

Medals were also given out to the top two fishermen in three different age groups: 6 year olds and younger; 7 to 10 years old; and 11 to 13 years old.

Even for people who didn't get a trophy or medal, there were other gifts to go around. All participants received a certification of participation and a small gift.

Some, like Bradford, left the rodeo with a less tangible prize in hand.

"I've always had the desire, but my dad's in the hospital frequently due to health problems," he said. "It was fun that I finally got to get out and fish."

Bradford wasn't the only one thankful for the opportunity provided.

"It's a good family outing," Taylor-Whitehead said. "I'm glad Fort McPherson sponsored this event to give us something to do as a Family."

Page last updated Fri July 22nd, 2011 at 12:16