When the JAKES Fishing Rodeo began at 9 a.m. Saturday, there were approximately 2,200 catfish in Foster Park Lake. By the time it was over three hours later, there were a lot less.
“A lot fish were caught,” Union County Recreation Department Director Becky Cobb said Monday. “I noticed a lot of big stringers full of catfish going home with families at the end of the day.”
The lake had been home to the catfish since the afternoon of May 11 when, with the assistance of SC Department of Natural Resources (SCDNR) and City of Union personnel, a representative of Georgia Select Fish Farm placed them in the water. The company was hired by the SCDNR to provide the fish for the JAKES Fishing Rodeo which was sponsored by the city, recreation department, Union Public Safety Department, US Forest Service, SCNDR, and National Wild Turkey Federation.
JAKES (Juniors Acquiring Knowledge, Ethics, Sportsmanship) is an annual event that gives youth, both on their own and in the company of their parents, the opportunity to meet public safety officers — who cooked lunch for those participating in the fishing rodeo — forest service officials and representatives of a variety of community service agencies while participating in a variety of activities including BB gun target shooting, inflatable slides, fishing simulator, camouflage hunt and, of course, fishing.
The abundant supply of catfish and the opportunity to catch them coupled with the other offered activities and good weather drew hundreds to Saturday’s event.
“The weather was perfect,” Cobb said. “We had a great turnout, we registered 500 youth and when you figure that at least part of the youth participating were accompanied by adults then we probably had some 800 people there.”
The event also featured a wide array of prizes provided by the city, the recreation department and the SCDNR.
Before the fish were placed in the lake, 20 of them were tagged. Anyone who caught a tagged fish during the fishing rodeo received a special prize provided by the SCDNR. Of the 20 tagged fish, Cobb said a dozen were caught and the lucky anglers collected their special SCDNR prizes. Those prizes were a rod and reel combination and tackle box.
When they registered to participate in the fishing rodeo, each youth was given lunch tickets so they could receive their free lunch cooked by the public safety department. They were also given three prize tickets that gave them the opportunity to register for the prizes provided by the city and the recreation department. The prizes, which were on display in the picnic shelters, included bicycles, tents, sleeping bags, fishing gear, tackle boxes, and other outdoor activity items. The youth could use their tickets for three chances for a particular prize or divide them among three prizes.
“All the prizes were taken home by the children,” Cobb said. “There were none left by the end of the day.”
Registration also gave the young participants in Saturday’s event the chance to win a fishing rod from the SCDNR.
“The DNR provided 200 fishing rods which were to be given out during the day,” Cobb said. “The rods were awarded by random selection of the registration forms.”
Prior to the fishing rodeo, Foster Park Lake was closed to fishing with violators running the risk of being ticketed by the public safety department. After the conclusion of the rodeo the lake was once again opened to the public for fishing, but Cobb cautioned would be anglers to make sure they get a fishing license first.
“The lake is open for fishing, but you have to have a fishing license,” Cobb said. “The DNR says they will be checking.”