Great event at Panther Swamp NWR

By JASON PATTERSON,

In a time when it’s sometimes hard to get kids to put down the electronic devices and get outside, it was encouraging to see so many local youth at the annual Fishing Rodeo at Panther Swamp National Wildlife Refuge Saturday morning.

This free event has become a big deal over the last few years. In fact, it has almost outgrown the pond used for the fishing rodeo.

The fishing rodeo is a lot of fun for children, and although even kids who have plenty of experience fishing will also enjoy it, it’s a great way to introduce fishing to those who have don’t have a lot of fishing experience.

For the fishing rodeo the pond is stocked with way more catfish than it would normally have to ensure plenty of catches. Children are given cane poles and catfish bait, and then the fun begins. For at least an hour you can watch kids steadily hauling in fish. It’s a lot of fun just watching their reactions.

My three kids love it, and they’ve always given the fish they caught to someone who needed a little more food on the table.

The event has proven to be so popular that it has almost outgrown the pond. We nearly walked all the way around the pond before we finally found a spot where our three children could squeeze in. There were kids fishing elbow-to-elbow.

I’m not complaining about that. I think it’s great that so many children are being exposed to the joys of outdoor activities. I can’t imagine life without spending much of my time outdoors.

It is the ultimate stress reliever for me, and it’s a great way to spend meaningful time with your family. I want as many people as possible to have the opportunity to see if they feel the same way.

The Fishing Rodeo at Panther Swamp NWR certainly accomplishes that goal, and it does more than that. It also helps introduce the public to some incredible property that is theirs to explore.

One of these events a few years ago was actually the first time that I ever visited the refuge. After the kids were done fishing and shooting bb guns and bows at station manned by volunteers with the Yazoo County Wildlife Association, we decided to take a look at what the refuge had to offer.

We were blown away.

I was almost ashamed to admit that I had never been there before. Panther Swamp NWR is a local treasure that is appreciated by plenty of people from far outside of Yazoo County. It’s not uncommon during hunting season to see local hotel rooms booked with hunters visiting from other states, and many tourists stop to visit while passing through the Mississippi Delta.

Seth Swafford does an outstanding job managing the refuge, and he has a great staff.

The crowds showing up at the recent fishing rodeos are proof that Panther Swamp NWR is no longer our region’s best kept secret.

That’s a good thing. Every child should have an opportunity to experience God’s great outdoors.