The big ones were biting for more than 230 children who participated in a kids’ fishing event Saturday at Fort Stewart’s Holbrook Pond, but it wasn’t just little ones who enjoyed a day on the pond.
According to Bill Cooney, outdoor recreation programmer for the Directorate of Family and Morale, Welfare & Recreation, the pond was stocked with more than 2,000 catfish by Stewart’s Fish & Wildlife Branch. Families were asked to limit the number of fish caught to five per child ages 15 and younger.
Cooney said FMWR awarded prizes for the largest catfish caught in each age category — 8 and younger, 9-12 and 13-15. He said the largest catch — about 3½ pounds — was hooked by a child in the youngest age bracket. Prizes included a T-shirt, tackle box and rod and reel.
Arianna Zimbalatti, 10, was happy to show off her first catch, so long as she didn’t have to touch it. The Diamond Elementary School student would have no part in holding her catfish, much less removing it from the hook. Her parents, Staff Sgt. Chris and Amy Zimbalatti, were busy helping Arianna and her brothers, Tommy, 7, and Christian, 13.
Kessler Elementary School student Jasmine Masterton, 8, watched her dad, Sgt. Michael Masterton, bait her sister Morgan’s hook. She then asked her dad to let her wear his protective gloves so she could show off her big catfish.
“I take them fishing whenever I can,” Masterton said as he put Morgan’s line back in the water. “They get frustrated when they don’t catch anything. It helps when they have events like this where they stock the pond first.”
Giovanni Jackson, 9, was eager to show off his 2¼-pound catfish. His fishing buddy and classmate at Long County’s Smiley Elementary School, Marley Monibusan, wasn’t having as much luck. Giovanni’s grandfather, retired soldier Ricky Jackson, enjoys taking his grandson and one of his buddies fishing whenever he can.
“My son is in Atlanta right now,” Jackson said. “It’s easier taking my grandson fishing. He’s a better fisherman, anyway. Right now, his fish is in second place for his age group.”
Perhaps the youngest fisherman on the pond Saturday morning was 16-month-old Jasper Walker. He didn’t let his size or age slow him down. He had watched his father, Sgt. Uriah Walker, fishing many times. Seated on the edge of the pond with his daddy’s fishing rod between his feet, Jasper picked up the rod then jerked it back as though he was hooking a whopper. He just didn’t seem to know what to do with the reel.
“I’m starting him early because I want him to break my record,” said Walker, who frequently competes in fishing tournaments. “I caught my first fish when I was 2.”
Walker’s wife, Jessica, said they know Jasper is too young to actually catch a fish on his own, but they want to get him used to fishing with his dad so he’ll learn to love it, too.
Kayla Moua, 7, a Button Gwinnett Elementary School student, wanted to show off the tub filled with fish caught by her family when her little brother, Cayden, 5, began reeling in a catfish with help from his mom, Shendara Moua. Sgt. Michael Moua then removed the fish from the hook, re-baited the hook and cast the line back in the water.