Juggling fishing poles and tackle boxes, more than 100 very determined youth anglers descended upon the Sycamore Park pond Saturday morning, Aug. 9.
They were there to take part in the seventh-consecutive Pickerington Youth Fishing Derby, organized by the City Parks and Recreation Department and former Pickerington resident Brian Arnold.
"This is what we're going to use," said James White, 8, pointing to his equipment, including the "double-layer bait box" he recently received for his birthday.
He proudly displayed the "smelly" fake bait he used to capture his first bluegill.
James was ready to roll, along with sisters Julia, 4, and Elizabeth, 6.
"I guess they have prizes involved, but we do it for the fun," said their mother, Lisa White, of Pickerington.
Already firmly implanted in their spot along an inlet at the edge of the pond, Pickerington's Joseph and Alex Klemann, 4 and 6 years old, respectively, were both champing at the bit.
Because of traffic associated with the Pelotonia bike race winding its way through Pickerington the same morning, derby organizers delayed the 9:30 a.m. start by 15 minutes.
Joseph Klemann couldn't help but reveal his winning fishing formula.
"Jumbo mealworms, pieces of hot dogs and cheese," he said.
Meanwhile, Brian Arnold loudly barked instructions to all of the competitors, making certain even those across the pond could hear him.
He flew into Pickerington from out of town to help organize the event, as he does every year, this time from Alabama.
"When I was a kid they used to have this fishing derby, then it stopped because of a fish kill in the pond," Arnolds said.
"We spent a thousand dollars restocking it. Now its loaded with fish," he said.
He said the event was resurrected in 2007 and has grown bigger every year.
"It's been very successful, just look around," Arnold said, gesturing to the children ringing the pond, all with poles in hand, eagerly awaiting the official start signal.
Arnold said prizes are awarded to four different age groups, for most fish caught and for biggest fish.
"Typically we give away fishing poles and tackle boxes, but this year we're also giving away tents, sleeping bags and a 50-pound scale as prizes," Arnold said.
Arnold credited outdoor retailer Cabela's with providing a discount on the camping and fishing equipment, which allowed organizers to award more prizes this year.
Storm Team Construction also helped to sponsor the event.
Although he hasn't lived in Pickerington for five years, Arnold said he wouldn't miss the annual fishing derby for the world.
"I enjoy it," he said.
"I thought about stopping after last year, but when it was over a little girl came up to me, hugged my legs and said 'thank you, Mr. Brian.' I just couldn't stop after that," Arnold said.
For Pickerington residents Norah Merritt, 9, and her father, Keith, another opportunity to enjoy the great outdoors was too good to pass up.
"It's time together, just us alone," said Keith Merritt. "We fish a couple times a year. We go to a father-daughter overnight camp, where we fish and canoe," said Keith Merritt of Pickerington.
In mid-sentence, his daughter interrupted him.
"Daddy, hurry! They're starting," exclaimed Norah.
He apologized and proceeded to assist Norah as she cast out her line, and the competition was on.