(Bridgeport, CT) – As his daughter Silvia fished for the first time, Maurice Grey could see the writing on the wall.
“Who knows. This might catch on and she’ll get hooked,” Grey said Saturday. “I can already see what happens. She’ll say, ‘Let’s go out and do this again,’ and we’ll have to go out and buy a rod for me. That wouldn’t be a bad thing.”
That was what Police Officer Michael Bouchard, a school resource officer, had in mind when he envisioned the first fishing rodeo. It was a collaboration between the police department and community. After raising about $4,000, Bouchard and the department bought 300 fishing rods for city school children and planned a day of fishing and barbecuing at Beardsley Park.
The job of the children was to show up and have fun.
Bouchard had hoped parents might stick around too and enjoy a beautiful day with their kids. That’s exactly what happened.
“I couldn’t have imagined a better day,” said Mayor Bill Finch, who joined hundreds of families to cast lines with his sons. “Our kids need to get out and enjoy the beautiful outdoors and the great natural resources our city has to offer.”
The idea was simple. Bouchard grew up with a love for fishing. As a school police officer, he saw value in giving Bridgeport’s young people a chance to experience something new, something that can become a generational bonding experience for parents and children.
He and coworkers started fundraising, lined up sponsors, secured a great deal for 300 fishing rod starter kits and put the word out to all city schools.
More than 200 children showed up on April 13 for lessons of the basics of fishing and safety.
Then on Saturday, close to 300 showed up to celebrate the beginning of fishing season. At the end of the day, the children got to keep the fishing gear.
Jaelyn Jones, 7, was all smiles when she celebrated catching her first fish. It was her father Rondell’s job to throw it back.
The fishing derby started at 9 a.m. Saturday. Lines were cast by 10 a.m. Trophies and bragging rights happened at noon followed by a cookout.
“Every time the department puts out the call, the community responds,” said Police Chief Joseph L. Gaudett Jr. “In December, that generosity allowed us to give out 300 free bikes to city school children. Now, it is fishing poles and a great family day.”