Teach a Child to Fish Day a hit at Sportsman Lake

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Kaylee Pair, 6, poses with pro angler Britt Myers and shows off the bass she caught at Sportsman Lake Saturday morning. (Christy Perry for The Cullman Tribune)

CULLMAN, Ala. – Sportsman Lake Park was full of young anglers Saturday morning for Pond Hopper Nation’s Teach a Child to Fish Day with Major League Fishing. The weather cleared up in time for families to come out and enjoy a day of fishing and an opportunity to meet and learn from some of the best anglers in the world. Kids were given their own new rods and reels for the special day.

Albert Talafuse, founder of Pond Hopper Nation, was excited to see so many come out for the event.

He said, “We’ve been doing this for three years, but this year, we made a little partnership with Major League Fishing to tour with them. We’ve been hanging out with them and that’s how we ended up here. We’ve done the last three events with them. We do these all over the country. Cullman’s been the biggest turnout or the most registered. We had 340 kids register, but I’m not sure how many have shown up.”

It was Talafuse’s love of fishing that inspired him the create Pond Hopper Nation.

He explained, “The goal was to spread the love of fishing. Me and my buddy Roy Hawk, we hosted our first Teach a Child to Fish Day. When we hosted that, we had 156 kids come and it was very rewarding.”

With more kids than registering for Saturday than expected, the organization was a little short on rods so Talafuse had to reach out in hopes of having more donated before the event. Werner’s, Mary Carter Store and Van’s Sporting Goods helped by donating more rods so all kids could fish.

It was a great morning for fishing and the kids were seeing success early and often. Emily Glover was at the lake with her family. Pro Angler Britt Myers patiently taught Glover how to cast, and within minutes she had caught her first fish of day. She was ecstatic about the fish and equally as excited, Myers joined her for pictures before releasing her catch. Less than 10 minutes later, Glover had her second fish hooked and on the bank. This one even bigger than the first.

Myers kept a close eye on all the kids and made sure to help as many as possible. He took a break to talk about the importance of events like these and recalled his days fishing as a kid.

He said, “You know, driving over here, I was thinking about the time when I first remember catching a fish or not really catching a fish, but being on a pond and seeing fish. That always intrigued me. I can remember down the road from where I grew up, there was a little pond. I wasn’t even supposed to be there actually, but I used to walk down there and walk around and no one really showed me anything. I didn’t figure much out, but what I did learn, I taught myself. Just catching a fish is so much fun.”

Myers doesn’t remember the first fish he caught but he does remember his first time on the water.

He laughed, “I can remember specifically my mom getting me a rod and reel and I was hung up and I reeled it really really really tight. I let it go and it went right out into the lake and I lost it. I remember that!”

Myers also spoke about how his career as a professional angler came to be, sharing, “I fished a lot of tournaments and I enjoyed fishing tournaments, but as a kid, I never thought I would even have an opportunity to fish professionally so it wasn’t really a goal. But as I started fishing tournaments, I fished a tournament series called The Open event just to see how I could do against the pros and I did really well, and qualified for a professional tour, took a shot at it and here I am. So it wasn’t as a kid I dreamed of it because I didn’t even think it was possible.”

Most of the kids were having a great day catching blue gill when all of a sudden, a young girl reeled in a nice bass. Kaylee Pair from Vinemont couldn’t wait to show Myers her big catch and show it off. After a few pictures, Pair released her fish and continued to try for more.

Cullman Mayor Woody Jacobs and Cullman Parks, Recreation and Sports Tourism Executive Director Nathan Anderson helped as the kids arrived at the Veterans Pavilion.

Anderson thanked Cullman County Parks and Recreation for allowing the event to take place at its facilities, saying, “It’s been a great joint effort. We couldn’t have done it without them.“

Jacobs said of the park full of young anglers, “This is what it’s all about. Bringing on the next generation!”

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