If you visited Fairgrounds Park in Troy the week of May 12 to May 19, you may have wondered why the pond was closed for fishing. Starting Monday, May 12 the park was the site of an annual event coordinated by the Missouri Department of Conservation with assistance from the Lincoln County Fire District, the City of Troy, the Troy Elks Lodge and the Troy Chamber of Commerce. For 15 years, first graders from the Troy School District, First Baptist Christian Academy and Sacred Heart have been invited to the park for a day of fishing with Missouri Conservation agents and local firefighters. There are two sessions per day for six days.
The Missouri Department of Conservation stocks the pond with blue gill and provides poles and agents to help teach the children how to fish. The Troy Elks Lodge purchases catfish for the pond, while the Troy Chamber of Commerce donates the daily trophies. The City of Troy also contributes money toward the event. Conservation Agent Kevin Eulinger was on hand to lead the festivities, weigh the fish the children caught and presented the trophy for the biggest fish caught. The trophy winner of the second session of the May 12 event was Caden Johnston, seven years old, from Main Street Elementary. His 4 lb. 2 oz. catfish was the catch of the day.
The teachers at each elementary school work out the schedules for which classes will attend which session. Each session has approximately 65 children. Students from Main Street Elementary attended both May 12 sessions.
Eulinger said the Missouri Department of Conservation wants to get children away from their screens and keyboards and “Out into nature.”
“We want to get kids interested in fishing early; it could become a life long interest,” he said.
He stressed that the event is a collaboration, “We couldn’t do it without all the help from our sponsors.” Mainly, it is a labor of love for the agent. “It is truly rewarding,” he said.
Once the fishing is over for the day, the children headed to the shade of the huge tree near the pond, sitting in rows, chattering happily about the day’s fishing. “I caught a baby fish!” one excited young man exclaimed, trying to get his classmates to listen to his fish story. Eulinger brought the group to attention with the help of teachers Mrs. Harris and Mrs. Raile, then asked the group if they had fun. “Yes!” was the rousing reply. “Did everyone catch a fish,” asked the agent. “Yes!” the children shouted. Eulinger next asked the children to thank the volunteers and sponsors. The children screamed, “Thank you!” Finally Caden Johnston was presented his trophy.
The event was started 15 years ago by Chris Morrow.