By Randy Murray, Fort Stewart Public AffairsJune 18, 2010
FORT STEWART, Ga. -Kids of all ages, along with their parents, lined the banks of Fort Stewart's Pond #30 for a morning of fishing fun, June 12. So many Families showed up for this summer's first fishing rodeo that parking extended from the designated parking area onto the road leading to it with spill over parking along the side of the dirt roads surrounding other smaller ponds.
"We had nearly 300 children sign up this fishing rodeo," said Susan Chipple, director of outdoor recreation for Stewart's Directorate of Family and Morale, Welfare and Recreation. "It's the largest number of kids we've ever had participate."
Parents helped kids bait their hooks with worms and chicken livers, some helped cast out fishing lines and some helped remove the keeper-size catfish from the hooks when the youngster reeled it in. It was especially important that parents were involved in the casting part of the process since so many lines were in the water, entanglement with someone else's line was hard for even an experienced angler to avoid.
Some young fishermen were having better luck than others. Joshua Atkins, 11, son of retired Soldier Matt Atkins, had only caught one fish by 9 a.m., but he was proud of the one he had. Sheldon Stodghill, 12, must have been "holding his mouth right," as the old folks used to say about lucky fishermen. He was catching fish faster than most kids could get their hooks baited, including his brother, Marquess Smith, 17. Still, between the two of them, they had a stringer of catfish anyone would envy. Having dad, Sgt. 1st Class Norman Stodghill, 2/306th Field Artillery, there to coach in the big ones was probably a plus for both boys.
Arianna Zimbalatti, 6, was glad her dad, Sgt. Chris Zimbalatti, 385th Military Police Battalion, was there to coach her into reeling a big one, and where needed, help with the reeling itself. But luck had nothing to do with it, as far as she was concerned. With a couple of large "cats" on her stringer, she considered herself a qualified fisherman or fisher-girl.
In addition to the challenge of fishing, the Family and MWR event included a casting competition as well. And when the kids (or parents) got tired, or they had caught all the fish they wanted, volunteers from Fort Stewart Fish & Wildlife Branch of the Directorate of Public Works were available to clean the fish they'd caught. In an assembly line-like process, catfish were removed from stringers and passed to someone who would "skin" the fish the pass it to someone who would remove the head and clean it then pass it on to someone who would fillet it.
The next scheduled kids fishing event takes place at Hunter Army Airfield's Hallstrom Lake, July 3, as part of the July 4th weekend celebrations.