More than 200 people came to Fort Stewart’s Pond 30 on Saturday morning for a family fishing event that celebrated National Hunting & Fishing Day.
Susan Chipple, outdoor recreation director for the Directorate of Family and Morale, Welfare & Recreation, said participants — about 260 — were lining up by 6 a.m. for the event’s 7 a.m. start. More than 2,000 12-to-14-inch catfish were stocked in the pond by Stewart’s Fish & Wildlife Branch, which also ran the fish-cleaning station, she added.
As the horn sounded for the start of the event, anglers immediately began reeling in the fish, Chipple said. Even though state- and installation-license requirements were waived for the event, she said game wardens with the Directorate of Emergency Services patrolled the pond and enforced the five-fish-per-person creel limit.
“We got here right at 7:30 (a.m.),” said Joe Ford, who was reeling in his lines by 10 a.m., saying he’d already gotten enough fish for his family. “It was still a little dark when we got here, and they were biting at anything you dropped in the water. They stopped biting at around 8:30. Until that time, though, I stayed busy catching fish and taking fish off my wife’s and the girls’ lines.”
Ford said he had no sooner set down his pole to help Makailah Wilson, 7, and Mariya Maize, 9, when his wife Constance got a fish on her line. Their fish stringer contained both catfish and bream. Ford said he like both.
Retired soldier Frank Scott brought his son and both daughters so they could try their luck. Son Bryson, 11, said he only caught one but threw it back because it was too small. Daughter Destiny, 5, proudly showed off her “big one,” while her sister Lamia, 6, only pointed in the large bucket containing the fish her daddy caught.
A look in the bucket filled with catfish indicated the Scotts had plenty for a family fish fry. Like Ford, Scott was reeling in his lines shortly after 10 a.m., even though the event wasn’t scheduled to end until 11 a.m. Only a few fishermen still were catching anything, Scott said.
As family members headed for the cleaning station with their catches, Club Stewart chefs Nino Bassero and Callie Cowans whet their appetites with samples of fresh, fried catfish and hushpuppies.
Throughout the morning, outdoor-recreation supervisor Bill Cooney called out prize numbers for fishing equipment and other outdoor prizes, while FMWR staff assisted families and provided tips for first-time anglers.
Following the fishing event, youths and their families gathered at Stewart’s Pass & Permit Office for an archery shoot and demonstration by Cassie Pelton, the 17-year-old Long County High School senior who is ranked 11th in the nation by the U.S. Archery Association.
Following a recap of her training by her father and Fort Stewart soldier, Sgt. Don Pelton, she gave individual archery instruction to youths 7 to 16 years old.
Chipple said the event will lead to a youth-archery program planned for later this fall.