MARSHALL – One by one, they came walking up to a gazebo at Independence Park. Kids carrying poles, tackle and containers of worms each received a contestant number and fanned out around the park’s pond, ready to fish.
Andy Salmon, one of the young anglers, said his strategy was just, “Throw the line out, move it around every now and then, and hope something bites.”
The kids’ fishing derby made a return to the Festival of Kites in Marshall on Thursday. Organizers said about 35 kids signed up to try and catch the longest fish, both for prizes and bragging rights.
The Independence Day festivities at Independence Park lasted most of the day Thursday. A good-sized crowd of kids and adults turned out to get splashed in a giant water balloon fight, and later on the Festival of Kites kicked into gear with free kites and activities for kids and families.
“It couldn’t have been better weather for kite flying,” said Sarah Olimb. She and Carl Olimb were helping daughters Lilja and Hayley get their kites up in the air.
While the conditions for kite flying were excellent, there was still an element of challenge to keeping them in the air. Jack Bly wasn’t having much luck, even with help from Thomas Williford and Tom Williford.
Earlier, Tom Williford said, “We got one up to the end (of the string), but it broke off and went flying.”
Later on, most of the festival’s action seemed to switch over to the fishing derby, especially for the older kids. The fishing dock at the park was crowded but so were bridges and the shoreline around other parts of the pond. Anywhere with a little elbow room and a clear shot at the water would do.
Angel Jimenez was keeping a close eye on his bobber, although he said he hadn’t been getting any bites yet. His strategy?
“You just wait,” he said, shrugging.
Further down the dock, Pari Beth Bailey was getting some pointers from Trevor Bailey.
“Is that the wind, or could something be biting?” he asked, pointing to some ripples around Pari Beth’s bobber.
Pari Beth Bailey said she wasn’t a big fishing fan, but the contest was a chance to try out some new gear.
“We bought new fishing rods,” she said.
A lot of the fish caught Thursday were panfish and bullheads only about five or six inches long. One of the most impressive catches of the night was an 11-inch fish caught by Sofie Salmon. The fish put up a bit of a fight as she was reeling it in, she said.
Just like all the fish caught Thursday, Sofie’s whopper was placed in a tub of water to be released back in the pond after the derby.
It didn’t count as a fish, but Ronan Henning’s biggest catch certainly gave him a good story to tell.
“I caught a snapping turtle. But I didn’t get it in a bag or anything,” Henning said. He had been fishing using a nightcrawler for bait, when something hit his line hard. “I saw my pole just bent.”
The turtle got away but not before Henning got a look at it. He said the shell looked like a big, muddy rock at first.