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1 / 4 Show Caption + Hide Caption – Six-year-old Joseph Declan gets assistance with his first catch from his dad, Maj. Joe Cleveland, an Army Reservist. The duo made their way to Boardman Lake for the annual Kids Fishing Derby on Aug. 29, which was hosted by Fort Gordon’s Outdoor Recreation and the Tactical Advantage Sportsman’s Complex. (Photo Credit: Laura Levering / Fort Gordon Public Affairs) VIEW ORIGINAL
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2 / 4 Show Caption + Hide Caption – Sawyer Calvin, 3, gets acquainted with his new fishing rod during Saturday morning’s annual Kids Fishing Derby at Boardman Lake, while his father, Sgt. Benjamin Calvin of the Cyber Protection Brigade, and brother Lucas, wait for a bite. (Photo Credit: Laura Levering / Fort Gordon Public Affairs ) VIEW ORIGINAL
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3 / 4 Show Caption + Hide Caption – Air Force Master Sgt. Joe Cerullo, 5th Intelligence Squadron, teaches his son, Noah, 9, how to cast a rod during Saturday’s Kids Fishing Derby at Boardman Lake. (Photo Credit: Laura Levering / Fort Gordon Public Affairs) VIEW ORIGINAL
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4 / 4 Show Caption + Hide Caption – Trophies were awarded to the children with the highest weight of fish during the annual Kids Fishing Derby. (Photo Credit: Laura Levering / Fort Gordon Public Affairs ) VIEW ORIGINAL

Few outdoor activities are more relaxing than fishing –unless you are new to the sport and find yourself having to untangle from a fishing line.

“He’s doing as good as a 3-year-old can do,” Sgt. Benjamin Calvin said of his son, Sawyer.

Calvin, his two sons and their grandfather were among dozens who flocked to Boardman Lake on Aug. 29 for the Kids Fishing Derby.

Hosted by Fort Gordon’s Outdoor Recreation and the Tactical Advantage Sportsman’s Complex, the annual event was exclusive to military-connected families.

“It’s a special opportunity to let them fish this pond, which is closed to the public because we are in [general officers’] quarters and whatnot,” said Dov Estroff, TASC facility manager.

Thanks to a partnership between Morale, Welfare and Recreation, and Directorate of Public Works Fish and Wildlife, the pond is stocked one week prior to the event in hopes of maximizing the younger fishermen’s chances of a catch.

“Most of the ponds on post have feeders on them, but we leave the feeders off after they stock the pond until the event, so the fish are on their own – they’re not getting any supplement from feeders or anything like that, so hopefully they’re hungry when the kids get out here and they’re ready to go,” Estroff explained.

It’s a plan that quickly proved to go in one novice fisherman’s favor. Within his first hour of casting his reel, 6-year-old Joseph Cleveland had a bite. His father, Maj. Joe Cleveland, a Reservist, couldn’t have been more proud.

“He’s actually doing pretty good for his first time,” Cleveland said.

Catch or not, Cleveland said he was thankful Fort Gordon kept the event as scheduled.

“A lot of things have been canceled because of COVID,” he said. “I think we need to get past the idea that you can’t do anything. Just be smart about what you’re doing.”

While families fished, several Fort Gordon officials made their rounds, including Col. Shaw Pick, Fort Gordon garrison commander. Pick said he was happy to see so many families come out and participate in what he anticipates was the first of many more “robust activities” to come.

“Despite the challenges, the garrison is trying – within constraints – to give opportunities to build resilience and have a good time,” Pick said. “Collectively, we need it – as a nation, as a state, as a city, as an installation.”

Estroff and his team carefully planned and executed the event with COVID in mind. From marking social distance indicators around the pond to serve as visual reminders to keep space between families to signs in the more populated areas reminding people to wear a mask, safety remained at the forefront throughout the event.

“For us to conduct this event, it was a matter of making sure we had some social distancing mitigations and precautions in place for the close-contact areas – registration, bait pickup, food handling – and then we’re spread out along the pond, in open air,” Estroff said.

Air Force Master Sgt. Joe Cerullo, 5th Intelligence Squadron, noticed the safety measures.

“I think it’s a great opportunity to come out and just hang out for the day,” Cerullo said. People are spread out … I feel safe.”

Wrapping up the morning of fishing, a lunch of grilled hotdogs was served and trophies were awarded to children with the highest weight of fish caught.

“I hope for them it’s just good family time – that they have a good experience with fishing – but really that they enjoy being outside in a change of scenery … and it’s also a warmup for the bigger event in September.”

That event – a Kids Fishing Derby and Shooting Day – will take place Sept. 19 and be open to military families and their guests. Visit gordon.armymwr.com for more information about it and other upcoming events.