Coby Satterfield, 7, looked across the pond at Carl Stuart Middle School and rolled out his bottom lip. The fish weren’t biting as quickly as they had earlier Saturday morning.
"I caught all the fish — that’s why they aren’t biting," Coby said.
Coby was among about 35 children who showed up to fish in the 200-catfish-stocked pond behind the middle school during the Free Kids Fishing Rodeo put on by the Razorback Young Marines.
By noon, about 65 catfish — the largest being 6 1/2 pounds — had been hauled out of the brown water.
Children began arriving at 7:30 a.m., but as the day grew hotter, families began to go home. By noon, only five children were still fishing.
The rodeo, the first the local Young Marines group has sponsored, was a success, Instructor James Gibson said.
"They’re out here catching fish; they aren’t out there robbing, thieving or stealing," he said.
The event was meant to attract families, give kids something fun to do and let them learn about an organization that focuses on keeping kids off drugs and teaching them honor, courage and ambition, officials at the event said. On Saturday, about six children said they were interested in joining, Gibson said.
The Young Marines started in 1958, but the group didn’t organize in Arkansas until 2001, said Arkansas founder David Dubois. Currently, there are three Young Marines groups in Arkansas, including the one in Conway that draws children from as far away as Russellville. The Conway group, for ages 8 through 18, has 13 members, Gibson said.
The fish rodeo was meant to recruit more members, said Hailey Gibson, 10, of Vilonia, and the daughter of Gibson. Hailey is a Young Marine member.
"I wanted to come because I like to fish, and I thought it would be good for recruiting," she said.
Young Marines, a nonprofit, is a character-building program, according to its website. Children participate in team-building exercises that include ice cream, international exchange programs and camping. They can pick up skills, like repelling from towers and scuba diving, officials said.
Children earn ribbons for things like good grades and musicianship, Dubois said. The group does not teach combat skills or how to become a Marine, but it does teach manners and trust and teamwork, he said.
"What the program does is reinforce what mom and dad are teaching, trying to get them to be good citizens," Dubois said. "Sometimes the change in these kids is pretty dramatic. It’s a great experience for some of these kids."
A few moments after Coby thought he’d caught all the fish in the pond, his grandfather noticed the line had snagged a fish. Coby grabbed the rod and began reeling and working his way down the wooden deck to the lip of the pond. He and his friend Nate Gibson, 6, pulled the fish onto the bank.
Nate plans to join the Young Marines next year, and Coby is considering it, Gibson said.
Sometime in the next two weeks, the Young Marines will likely have a cookout and eat their catches, Gibson said. He looked over the wooden deck that smelled of fish and bait and was splattered with red and purple stains.
"Based on the fish scales, guts, blood drops everywhere — we’ve had a good time," Gibson said.