James Hague, 2, and his grandfather Hiram McFarlin keep an eye out for a possible nibble at Sleepy Hollow Park on Dorr Street.
Austin Thomas, only about four feet tall, threw his arms back and summoned all of his strength to cast the line from his blue and red Spiderman fishing pole.
Just as his hook sank below the pond surface, Austin excitedly exclaimed, "I got something, I got it," and he started reeling in the tiny fish, only four inches long.
"I got three bluegills now," he said, a huge smile spreading across his face.
The 8-year-old was one of more than 100 children trying to hook the biggest fish at yesterday's Kids Fishing Rodeo at Sleepy Hollow Park on Dorr Street.
Yesterday's event, sponsored by Toledo's Department of Parks, Recreation, and Forestry, drew the largest crowd since it was first held at the park about three years ago. The pond was stocked with 300 catfish in preparation for the event.
Dennis Garvin, interim director of the parks department, attributed yesterday's large crowd to the sunny weather.
"It's a great day to be out," he said. "It's one of our best family events."
Renee Schafer and daughter Tabitha Schafer, 8, cast a line into the pond.
Gary Kreft, acting manager at the recreation department, said fishing "is something kids can do and people can do their whole lives."
Parents and grandparents sat in lawn chairs and on blankets around the pond most of yesterday morning and early afternoon to watch and sometimes help the young fishermen.
Celine Woods of Toledo, who took her daughter and two sons, said that the fishing rodeo has become an annual family outing.
"I enjoy the outdoors, and my kids enjoy the outdoors," she said.
Her daughter, Taylor Hopkins, who started fishing when she was 5, said she likes catching the fish but "hates putting on the worms."
"I usually ask other people to do it," the 12-year-old said, while she waited for her age group to compete.
Each of the five age groups had 45 minutes to fish before their catches were measured and prizes awarded.
Tadon Neely won first place in the 7-to-8-year-old age group with his 12 1/2 inch silver and gray catfish - the biggest fish of those caught by more than a dozen children who competed in that age group.
"Wow, I'm so happy," he said, after his first-place finish was announced. "I couldn't think of anything but catfish."
Tadon's been fishing about four years and said his secret to catching big fish is using shrimp as bait. His father, Timothy, who taught him how to fish, said most people, other than professional fisherman, don't know that catfish like shrimp.
"They bite worm, but they love shrimp," he said.
Contact Laren Weber at: email@example.com or 419-724-6050.
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