Not everybody at the second annual Catfish Rodeo at the Rockville Municipal Pool last weekend planned to serve their catches on their dinner tables.
"I'm not going to eat that thing," said 7 year-old Patricia Wolper, of 709 Owens St., Rockville, whose older brother, Mike, 17, helped reel in Patricia's first catch ever, while she screeched and squirmed. "They scare me a lot. They wiggle. They sting," Patricia continued "I don't like catfish. They taste terrible, I'm going to keep him in a tank."
A different feelong prevalled among most of the approximately 800 persons who paid $1 each to drop a pole into the 750,000-gallon city pool, hoping to extract one of the 4,000 catfish - 1,000 pounds - which were stocked for the three-day affair that ended Sunday.
Catfish cleaning and cooking demonstrations by National Capital Parks and Planning Commission forest ranger Bob Powell on Saturday and Sunday were a help to many of the fishing novices.
"I like to eat them a lot. It's a lot of fun catching them and eating them," said David Bates, 7, of 5 Sunrise Ct., Rockville, who waited all day Friday before finally snagging a seven-inch catfish. His father, Barry, had slightly better luck, pulling in two fish during the afternoon.
Many of the participants wer children, from early teens and younger. Children under nine had to be accompanied by a parent. Some moments of tension came Saturday when an 8-year-old girl fell into the pool and was rescued by pool staff member Andy Martin.
Donale Tucker, 67, of 13314 Okinawa Ave., Rockville, a fisherman "on and off for 25 years," enjoyed himself Friday, teaching youngsters the tricks of snagging catfish as well as catching a few himself. After reeling in three fish, he loaned his pole to 11-year-old Ronnie Wilson, a rookie fisherman. Tucker then managed to catch two more fish by just dropping a line into the water.
"I think this is a pretty good idea," said Tucker, who has led fishing expeditions by Boy Scout Troop 231 of Washington Grove. "A lot of youngsters can get together, catch fish with little danger of drowning or anything. i just tell them to put it (the line) in there (the water). They'll be nibbling for a while. Then they'll pull on it, and that's when you pull them in.
Brothers Gil and Jeff Hickey, of 1013 Debeck Dr., Rockville, did the bulk of the catching, pulling in more than 100 fish between them. Younger brother Jeff, 15, proved that fishing requires skill as well as strength Friday when the 5-foot-3-inch, 120-pound youngster reeled in a 19-inch-long fish, the largest of the weekend.
His brother Gil, 20, who stands 6-foot-3 and weighs 230 pounds, took Friday's award with only a 6-7/8-inch fish, but redeemed himself when he snagged Sunday's longest catfish, a 12 1/4 inch job.
"This is really wild - fishing in a swimming pool and catching big fish," Jeff Hickey said. "I caught about 20 (on Friday), but I gave most of them away to little kids who didn't have any."
"I think it's different. It's not as much of a challenge (as in open water) because this is a smaller area," said John Spano, of 1510 Columbia Ave., Rockville. Spano termed himself a "lousy fisherman" and had not caught anything by late Friday afternoon.
Other award winners, all from Rockville, were Billie Davis, 15, and Scott Powell, 9, who tied for Saturday's longest (11 1/2 inches); Chris Peloquin, 12, who had Saturday's shortest (7 1/2 inches); Mark Zaharko, whose six-inch catfish was Sunday's smallest, and Ronnie Simon, Cliff Hutchinson and Bob Powell (Scott's father and no relation to theforest ranger), who captured 7 to 12-year-old, 13 to 17, and 18-and-older casting accuracy contests, respectively.
The rodeo organizers, who only hoped to break even, termed the event a success. "The crowds were actually a little thinner than expected, but then it's not that exciting," said Burt Hall, the director of the swimming facility, who took charge of the event with George Lipscomb, superintendent of recreation for Rockville.
"A lot of people said it was a great idea. A lot of people said, 'I brought my three kids and they didn't catch a thing. But they had a great time.'"