Children line river banks to participate in Kidfish

Lauren Mentzer, 6, of Canyon Lake, searches for her bait at KIDFISH on Sunday. Mentzer was one of 150 young anglers that participated in the annual event. See more on Page 8. Photo by Kevin Force.

by Kevin Force, Editor

More than 150 young anglers turned out to participate in the annual KIDFISH event at Whitewater Sports on Sunday.

"This is what it's all about," said J.P. Brazeal, the president of the non-profit outreach program designed to give children 16 and under the chance to experience the sport of fishing and the outdoors.

"I love it," Brazeal said. "I love the opportunity to see the kids catch a big fish, and even more so than that, their first fish. It's very rewarding to see them catch their first fish, and a lot of the ones who have come before will catch their biggest fish. The smiles in their eyes are something."

But to the kids, the KIDFISH event is a link in the chain to Katy, where the KIDFISH Classic will host all of the season's qualifiers competing in an unforgettable experience landing trophy catfish.

Such will be the case for Alysa Strickland, Kyle Both, Ali Doph, Kolton Duncan, Jared Young and Ariel Wilks, who all qualified for the Classic by finishing either first or second in their respective age divisions. First prize at the Classic will be a $1,000 savings bond for the child, and $500 in cash for the child's school.

Doph turned in the longest of the 138 fish submitted for measure, a 17-inch specimen.

The children were not the only ones happy on Sunday. Alongside those 150 participants were parents and grandparents, who dutifully re-baited hooks, gave casting lessons, and held the pole during restroom breaks.

Volunteers, the backbone of any successful organized event, also enjoyed their time helping the children. Smithson Valley High School photography students Austin Bowler, Logan Farris, Tashia Rusnak, Cynthia Padilla, Kevin Meyer, Rafael Perez and Dan Singletary spent the afternoon helping measure and record each fish.

And the event organizers were also smiling. Kay Cote, assistant director for the Water Oriented Recreation District (WORD), thinks events like KIDFISH are vital to teaching children early about the importance of caring for the environment and developing an appreciation for the sport.

"If they're happy when they come to the river, then they'll continue to take care of it," Cote said.

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