“I got a fish,” 4-year-old Bentley Smith said after his fishing line was able to successfully catch a large rainbow trout Saturday morning.
But Bentley wasn’t fishing in a stream, river or lake in the area, but rather in the Legion Street Pool, as he and his father, Marty Smith, attended Johnson City’s annual “Say YES to Fishing, Say NO to Drugs” fishout.
The fishout stresses the importance of being involved in positive activities, such as fishing, as a way to keep kids away from drugs and alcohol.
Marty said he and Bentley arrived at the pool around 10 a.m., and only waited about 10 minutes to sink their line in the water.
While lines of parents and children killed time inside the Legion Street Parks and Recreation Center gym, where inflatables and games were set up to help ease the wait time, Marty said Bentley had only fishing on his mind.
“He wanted to come fishing. (He) ran past everything to come fishing,” he said. “This is the first time we’ve ever done (the fishout). I thought it was a great idea. I thought it would be a good thing for us to come and do. The volunteers were very helpful and they’ll show you what to do.”
From the edge of the pool, various sizes of trout were swimming through the different depths, as kids cast their lines near and far hoping for a bite. For those who were lucky enough to catch a fish, volunteers from the National Guard were on site to gut and clean the trout, bag it and put it on ice for the kids and their families to take home.
The fishout, scheduled from 9 a.m.-4 p.m., was a free event for kids 14 and under, and groups of 100 kids at a time were allotted 30 minutes to fish from the pool.
Terry Hardin, Johnson City Police Department patrol officer and chairman of the fishout committee, said so far the weekend of fishing already had a great turnout.
“(Friday) was our special needs night and we had 150-175 people here ... with special physical and mental needs,” Hardin said. “It’s going great. We have a good turnout. The weather’s a little bit cool, but it’s good for the fish.”
He said the fishout has been going on since 1989 and involves numerous organizations, including the JCPD, Johnson City Fire Department, Johnson City Parks and Recreation, Citizens Police Academy volunteers and the National Guard.
“I see faces that have probably never fished before and hopefully they’ll come back in and do it next year and the year after,” Hardin said. “It’s an outdoor activity. If we could give kids something positive to do, it’s an alternative to drug use, to alcohol abuse. It’s a great program and it’s exciting.”
After catching another large fish from the pool, 5-year-old Hope Garay-Leon said it was the second fish she had caught Saturday.
Standing close by, her mother, Amber, said she decided to bring the group of Greeneville residents to Johnson City after her father told her about the event.
“We love fishing,” she said. “I think they’re doing a wonderful thing with (the) kids. They are very polite, very helpful to help make sure that a kid catches a fish. It’s just a good family fun time. It’s just a good environment for the kids.”
Hardin said the fishout continues today from noon-5 p.m. and said for a donation of $10 per hour the public is invited to come fish. He said the proceeds collected today will go toward next year’s program.
For more information, call the JCPD at 434-6122.