EPHRATA — When 8-year-old Jarrod Schulz saw the line on his fishing pole go tight early Saturday morning at Oasis Park in Ephrata he didn’t panic. The young angler instead quietly tugged at his dad’s sleeve and did a head nod toward the water.
As Jarrod started to reel in his prize it became apparent that to most adults the prospect of catching a little fish out of a small pond on a cold and breezy Saturday morning in Ephrata might not be the definition of fun. But to Jarrod there was no place in the world he would have rather been over the weekend and things like that make it worth it for the adults.
“I woke up early today and my dad noticed I was up so he asked me if I wanted to go fishing and I was like ‘yeah!’ I have never been before and only seen fish on TV, never up close like today. They are really cool-looking, but I hate that they feel so slimy,” Jarrod excitedly remarked after he reeled in his coveted fish.
Jarrod was one of over 100 kids who ventured out to Oasis Park early Saturday morning to participate in the Ephrata Lions Club’s annual youth fishing derby. Sons and their dads. Sons and their moms. Daughters and their dads. Daughters and their moms. Kids with their family members or friends. The free event saw the pond at Oasis Park chock full of young anglers hoping to have the same kind of success that Jarrod Schulz had Saturday morning when the derby kicked off at 6 a.m.
“I saw this one kid with a fish that was like bigger than my whole entire body,” Claire Benfield, 5, of Ephrata, said with a straight and serious face. “I didn’t even know there was that big of fish here. It makes me want to become good at fishing so I beat my older brother at it.”
The anglers were divided into age groups and prizes were handed out for the biggest catch in each group. The event wasn’t necessarily a clean one with the hundreds of fish. It wasn’t even a warm one, as the sun might have been out Saturday morning, but a steady breeze forced everyone to bundle up. Despite those things, the derby served not only as a fun thing to do for local kids, but as a bonding experience for many families. “I don’t really know why I suggested going to this. I heard about it and thought my son would have some fun. But what I didn’t realize is how much of a good time I would have as well,” Dustin Schulz, Jarrod’s father, explained. “As a dad I am going to look back at days like this fondly for years to come.”
Richard Byrd can be reached via email at email@example.com.