Children learn to pull fish out of peaceful waters

On a sunny, steamy June morning, the father was instructing his son on how to cast from the pond shoreline at Indian Springs Park in Porter.

Christian Burnside, 38, helped his son Jax, 6 1/2, to cast and place the grub worm bait in the water, just beyond a submerged tree limb.

Jax earlier in the morning had experienced the thrill of catching his first fish – a small Sunfish. The two looked out on the waters as the floating bobber dipped slightly below the surface.

Burnside told his son that the fish was “checking the bait.” and to be ready to pull the rod upward to “set the hook.” Jax soon afterward raised the rod and reeled the line in. When the line was out of the water, the hook was clean.

“That was a clever fish,” Jax said.

There were about 35 people spread out along the east bank of the pond at Indian Springs Park Thursday morning for the Stormwater Safety Kids FIshing Derby, hosted by the Town of Porter Parks Department and Public Works Stormwater Management.

Left: Jax Burnside, 6 1/2, looks on as his Sunfish is measured.  Right: Matthew Plath, 10, of Westville, smiles as his Bluegill is measured at 7 3/4 inches.  JAMES WOODS/photos

Left: Jax Burnside, 6 1/2, looks on as his Sunfish is measured. Right: Matthew Plath, 10, of Westville, smiles as his Bluegill is measured at 7 3/4 inches. JAMES WOODS/photos

Children aged 6 through 12 were invited to come, with an accompanying parental supervisor, to participate. Fishing poles, bait and a hot dog lunch were all provided for free to the participants in the event, which ran from 8 am until noon.

Brian Bugajski, Porter’s parks director, said the fishing derby started 10 years ago and has been held annually, though there had been a pause for two years because of the COVID-19 pandemic and construction on the nearby I-94.

“It’s a great event. It’s a good way to teach kids about fishing and why storm water quality is important,” Bugajski said. “A lot of people don’t know the park is here so it’s a good way to advertise that it’s here.”

A number of sponsors also stepped up for the event, including Northwest Indiana Steelheaders, BF&S Engineering, InHealth Ambulance, Siltworm, D 2 Land & Water Resource, the National Park Service and the Northwest Indiana Paddlers Association.

Lori Latham of Gary brought her son, Lennon, 8, out to the park Thursday morning. Lennon had never been fishing before.

Angel Lovison, who works part-time for the Town of Porter, was helping Lennon with his first ever casts.

“I love doing fishing with kids,” Lovison said.

Latham said she learned of the event because she works for Wessler Engineering, which was also helping with the event.

Further down the shoreline, Jon Hendricks was sitting in a lawn chair and watching his daughter Rachel, 10, expertly throw her line into the water. Hendricks had the presence of mind to bring along an umbrella to shield out the sun.

Hendricks, who lives in Hobart, complimented the Town of Porter for how they conducted the event. He said that it’s great for the town to provide fishing equipment and bait for free.

While Rachel doesn’t have her own fishing pole, she was adept at casting the bait far out into the water. So far, there were no fish to show for her efforts.

Top: Christian Burnside looks on as his son, Jax, works the shoreline.  Bottom: Angel Lovison, a Town of Porter employee, instructs Lennon Latham, 8, of Gary, on how to cast.  Lennon's mother, Lori Latham, watches.  JAMES WOODS/photos

Top: Christian Burnside looks on as his son, Jax, works the shoreline. Bottom: Angel Lovison, a Town of Porter employee, instructs Lennon Latham, 8, of Gary, on how to cast. Lennon’s mother, Lori Latham, watches. JAMES WOODS/photos

“It’s all right. We’re patient,” Hendricks said. “It’s about dad-daughter time.”

Meanwhile, underneath a portable awning, Bugajski was busy recording with a yardstick the length of the fish that the children were catching.

Matthew Plath, 10, of Westville, was proudly holding a Bluegill that measured 7 3/4 inches. About two hours into the competition, Bugajski said that one child had already caught nine fish.

Just then, Burnside and his son, Jax, brought in their second catch of the day – a Sunfish that came in at just under 6 inches.

“I can’t wait to catch another one,” Jax said.

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