Children Enjoy Thrill Of Catching First Fish

This appeared on The Murfreesboro Post - November 13, 2011

It didn’t take first-time fisherman Jordan Nabi, age 9, of Smyrna, long to nab his first monster fish.

OK, it was a hand-sized perch, but that’s part of the high adventure when you have crisp and cool 65-degree early morn weather, glass-smooth water on a pristine little lake, lots of fishing worms and 35 excited children who have never fished before.

A few moments later, Jordan’s Boys and Girls Club buddies Alecia Chames, 11, and Mahlon Shaffer, 10, excitedly snatched their first catfish out of Couchville Lake, where only non-motorized boats, canoes and kayaks are permitted.

“This is so much fun,” Chames chimed.

“I couldn’t wait to get here to fish this morning,” echoed Audrey Eza.

Eleven-year-old Courtney Steward revealed it was not her first fishing rodeo.

“I caught a barracuda before when we went to the ocean,” she shared confidently from beneath the brim of her Scouting cap.

It was a picture-perfect golden 2011 autumn day for the fifth annual John Stuart Fishing For Kids event at Long Hunter State Park.

Sometimes, it takes a community to educate children in the ways of Mother Nature, as evidenced by Nashville Opry Mill’s Outdoor World Bass Pro Shops’ gracious donation of 50 new Zebco rods and reels for permanent use of future Friends of Long Hunter State Park-sponsored Fishing for Kids’ events.

“Our children this year came from the Boys & Girls Club of Smyrna, which does a remarkable work with children of Middle Tennessee,” assessed Fishing For Kids organizer Dan Whittle.

“And this year, the event would not have been possible, without the generous donation of the upscale rods and reels through Bass Pro Operations’ Manager Jarron Ritchie and his team at the Opry Mills Store,” noted event coordinator Jeff Brookman from Smyrna Parkway Baptist Church.

“Our old rods and reels were worn out to the point our event was uncertain for future years,” he added.

Others sponsoring teams included Friends of Long Hunter, a nonprofit park support group, O’Charley’s Restaurant of Smyrna and Parkway Baptist Church of Smyrna.

“Fishing for Kids is one of the most important resources we have at our park for children to learn the joys and thrills of catching their first unforgettable fish,” described Long Hunter Ranger Jeff Buchannan. “The volunteers and groups annually average having anywhere from 35 to 50 children from Davidson, Wilson, Cannon and Rutherford counties who have never experienced the thrill of catching fish.”

Fishing can work up a hearty appetite.

“We’re here every year to serve hamburgers and drinks to the children and volunteers,” said O’Charley’s manager Kevin “KJ” Jones, who was assisted by “Action” Jackson Slaybaugh.

“We’re always appreciative of those who stage this Fishing For Kids,” noted Boys & Girls Club bus driver Larry Jernigan of Murfreesboro. “The children enjoy it every year. The food from O’Charley’s was awesome.”

The event has a long history of serving children, some of whom come from low-income families.

“We began fishing rodeos for kids two decades ago on Percy Priest Lake,” described Fishing For Kids’ namesake John Stuart, father of country music super star Marty Stuart. “Our family has always supported events that encouraged children in the ways of nature. Plus, we want to show them an example how joyful and fun it can be do events for benefit of other people, an important principle in life.”

Longtime Smyrna resident Stuart likes to share about his TV-star son attending one of the first Fishing For Kids events back when it started on Percy Priest Lake in the 1990s.

“One day, Marty took time out from travel and appearances, and was casting and helping bait the hooks of small children, when one of his casts ended up catching a duck by its bill,” John shared with a chuckle. “That ol’ duck went to ‘quacking’ and Marty went to rocking the boat while asking, ‘Dad, what do I do with this duck on the end of my line?’ I advised my son, simply: ‘Reel that ol’ duck in’ as it was now flying around and around over our boat by this time, trying to get that fish hook out of its mouth.”

They had to cut the fishing line to free the duck, but John’s long-time friend, the late Paul King, a true Tennessee outdoorsman, later recaptured the duck, and removed the hook from its beak.

By Dan Whittle

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