Derby hopes to reel kids from drugs


After watching the movement of his line in the water and settling himself into place on the pier at Middle Branch Park, 6-year-old Marvin Reynolds -- a self-proclaimed professional after catching two fish -- decided to tell a fellow angler his secret for success:

"I put two sinkers on the end of the line to make the line go real deep," said Marvin, a Baltimore first-grader.

Stranger fish stories are bound to be told by the nearly 300 children and adults who wore green and yellow neon painter's hats urging, "Get hooked on fishing instead of drugs," yesterday during the Governor's Youth Fishing Derby.

The event, which took place at a park in each Maryland county and in Baltimore, is part of a campaign by the state to take children's minds off drugs by encouraging them to participate in other activities.

Participants received fishing equipment -- including a net bag filled with anti-drug and pro-fishing information -- for a $2 registration fee.

"We have to give the children options other than getting involved with drugs," said Pamela Hill-Kenya, a teacher at Graceland Park-O'Donnell Heights Elementary School in Southeast Baltimore who came with 52 students, ages 7 to 11. "We need to give them something to be proud of."

No one could have been more proud than 7-year-old Zina Hines, who could hardly contain herself while her uncle netted her second catch of the day -- a squirming black eel. "Yes, I caught it. Me," Zina said pointing to her chest and smiling. And when her uncle gave it to another child, she wasn't upset at all. "I wanted to cook and eat my eel, but it's OK if it's gone," said Zina, who lives in Northeast Baltimore.

Fishing wasn't the only attraction at the event, sponsored by the Governor's Drug and Alcohol Abuse Commission, the state Department of Natural Resources and the Department of Recreation and Parks.

Puppeteer Rob Lovett of WNUV-TV Channel 54's morning children's show, "54 Space Corps," and Lyn Cameron, a social worker for My Sister's Place homeless shelter, sang songs and performed skits about "feeling good and thinking well" without using drugs.

But 14-year-old Ronald Walker and most of the other kid enjoyed hooking the fish that populate the Middle Branch River more than any other activity. "This is better than a day at the beach any day," he said.

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