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Anglers go for catch of the day June 9 in Lansdowne

Saturday morning, a host of young and eager anglers will set out to catch Walter, a three-foot-long carp, and other fish that patrol the waters of the Hillcrest Park pond.

Beginning at 7 a.m. June 9, dozens of anglers between the ages of 2 and 17 will compete to land the biggest fish, first fish and the most fish at the annual Fishing Rodeo that goes until 11 a.m. Prizes will be awarded in each of four age groups.

The free event invites students of all abilities to the shores of the 1.5-acre pond in Hillcrest Park to test their skill in a pond that has been stocked with hundreds of fish, including bluegill.

Halethorpe resident Brian Lipscomb, one of the rodeo's organizers for the past three years, said many of 40 participants in last year's event reeled in largemouth bass, some as big as 14-15 inches in length, in addition to smaller fish.

"I hope that it's as productive as last year," said Lipscomb, who runs a fishing class at the pond.

One of the half dozen volunteers at Saturday's event will measure and tally each fish before the catch is thrown back into the water.

Bass season doesn't start until June 15, Lipscomb said.

Lipscomb, 39, said he has fished since he was "out of diapers" and recalled the fishing rodeos he attended as a child fondly.

"They had it stocked with catfish every year," Lipscomb said. "The kids would have a blast reeling those in."

There will not be any catfish in the water this year, since the closest catfish hatchery is in North Carolina and it won't deliver only a few hundred fish.

The Lansdowne-Riverview-Baltimore Highlands Recreation Office, which sponsors the rodeo, doesn't have the means to transport the fish, Lipscomb said.

Still, the participants should have a good time doing what Lipscomb called "aquatic therapy."

"You don't have to be a star athlete and it's all about you," he said. "Any kid can throw a line in the water and pull out a fish."

Ronnie Bryant, 14, will participate in the rodeo for the third time this year and said his biggest thrill, besides hooking fish, is seeing people line the pond.

The Baltimore Highlands resident, who attends the fishing class run by Lipscomb, said he often hears people say that the pond doesn't house any fish.

"When you're up there for the fishing rodeo, people believe that there's something in there," Ronnie said. "It's cool to see new people and what they fish with."

He said he was only pretty sure that he won an award for catching the first fish at last year's rodeo.

Winning awards isn't what draws the eighth-grader at Lansdowne Middle School to enter the fishing competition.

"I look at fishing as more of a learning experience and how to get better at it," he said. "When I first started, I didn't know anything so I learned everything."

With his new found skill, Ronnie will cast into the water with the same goal as the dozens of other anglers, catching Walter.

No one at a Fishing Rodeo has ever caught Walter, but Lipscomb said anglers in his classes have hooked him twice over the past two years, landing him once before releasing him.

So far this year, Walter has evaded everyone's lures. But it's not for lack of trying.

"Everybody tries to catch him," Ronnie said.

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