Kokomo — It was the making of a surreal day: kids, fishing and an army of volunteers. But there were some concerns.
Few things in life are guaranteed, especially when the weather is at hand. For nearly three decades, Kokomo Kids Fishing Clinic participants have dealt with heat, rain, wind and high, muddy water. Now, thanks to this year, add an unprecedented drought. This extremely dry weather dropped reservoir water levels to half what it should be, making it nearly impossible to launch the 65 boats as in past years. This forced the 130 participants to fish from shore for the first time.
As carefree and resilient as children are, it didn’t matter. Armed with their tools of the trade and newfound knowledge, they spread across the shoreline giddy with excitement in hopes of landing the big one — or even just a bunch of little ones. And land they did, to the tune of 225 assorted fish of nearly every species.
“Someone just caught a 10-pound, 2-ounce catfish,” said Gary Hinkle, one of the clinic’s directors, as information about the catch crackled over his two-way radio. It was easy to notice the smile that stretched across his weathered face as reports of other catches began coming in.
People stood and clapped as the huge caravan of more than 70 vehicles, led by police escort, returned to the Main Reservoir Park. Those cars, trucks and SUVs were filled with precious cargo and stories waiting to be told.
Melaina Harrell had the biggest catch in the 6- to 9-year-old age group with a 1-pound, 12-ounce catfish. She was guided by Jerry Rose. She beamed with pride when receiving her first-place trophy.
Eli Jones hauled in the biggest fish in the 10-12 division and the biggest catch of the entire tourney with a channel cat topping out at 10 pounds, 2 ounces. “My arms got so tired trying to reel it in,” he said. He was guided to success by Jim Baker.