"Dad, it just went down!” Evan Borst, 5, said as the yellow bobber on his orange-and-black-striped Tigger Tackle fishing pole dipped over gentle ripples.
“Good, that means there’s a fish out there,” Bob Borst told his son. “See if you can get it.”
But the fish proved to be elusive little suckers.
“This is all we’ve caught so far,” Borst said as he helped Evan untangle grass from his hook.
Although the trout weren’t biting Saturday morning, that didn’t stop junior fishermen from trying to catch them during a catch-and-release trout fishing clinic at Cosmo-Bethel Park Lake.
“We fish out here once in awhile because it’s in town,” Borst said. “The kids’ attention for fishing doesn’t last very long, and there’s a playground here.”
The mid-Missouri chapter of Trout Unlimited sponsored the clinic in conjunction with the Columbia Parks and Recreation Department and the Missouri Department of Conservation.
The clinic marked the first year of what will hopefully be an annual event, said Michael Riley, event coordinator and chapter treasurer.
“We knew it’d be contingent on the weather,” Riley said. The clinic was cancelled last year due to cold temperatures. “The lake was iced over, and we didn’t want the kids near the ice,” he said.
Safety was a concern for the fish, too.
“We’re trying to teach catch and release,” Riley said. “We use barb-less hooks or bend the barbs on the hooks back so they don’t stick in their mouths. After the fish are caught, we treat them very gently to get them back out. If you do that, almost all of them live.”
Chapter members taught children proper fishing techniques, including how to cast, carry poles and fishing safety, said chapter president Jon Deal.
As the kids tried out the new techniques, the parents provided encouragement.
“Good cast Alyssa. I like how you’ve got your line tight ,too,” Borst told his 7-year-old daughter.
Although they didn’t catch anything Saturday, Michael and Beth Purvis, 9 and 8, fished at the lake during the summer and caught mostly bass. The trout were stocked Monday.
“I think it’s fun because when you catch fish you can touch them, and they don’t hurt when you stick your finger in their mouth, and it’s funny when they’re all wobbly,” Beth said.
The Boy Scouts of Den 1 from Ridgeway Elementary School used the clinic as an opportunity to earn metal belt loop emblems.
“I’ve caught a stick with two snails on it,” said Kellen Blow, 8, as he cast his yellow smiley-face fishing pole.
Brayden Blow, 3, got a boot full of water in his excitement at seeing a fish and chasing after it.
Five Cub Scouts and three of their siblings came to the clinic. “We like to make it a family affair so everybody gets to go,” said Den leader Melissa Tague.
“I like catch and release more than catch and eat,” Alden Tague, 8, said. “I don’t like killing animals.”
“All the kids got a fly box, and we loaned some fly rods for them to use,” said Scott Penman, owner of Clearwater Outfitters. The company also provided coffee and hot cocoa and prizes including forceps, line clips and a grand prize of a fishing fanny pack.
“I think the event is successful,” Penman said. “There’s a good turnout. If anything, it gets kids interested.”
That may be the case in the long run. But for today, the Borst children turned their attention to filling their tackle boxes with rocks while their dad caught three fish.