Chapel Hill: Sports

Annual fishing rodeo is a feast for the ages

Kids, their parents and friends gather around Strayhorn’s Pond to take part in Saturday’s annual fishing rodeo.
Kids, their parents and friends gather around Strayhorn’s Pond to take part in Saturday’s annual fishing rodeo.

Rains late last Friday did little to dampen the appetites of the bream, catfish and bass, delighting young anglers Saturday morning with plenty of bites at the annual Fishing Rodeo at Strayhorn’s Pond in southern Orange County.

The popular belief is that rains typically wash bugs and food from the banks into a pond. While those above the water certainly heard the thunder, the fish apparently didn’t take that to be their dinner bell.

“Rain has an effect on the fishing, but the pond is in good shape this year,” property owner Bob Strayhorn said last weekend.

Carrboro Recreation and Parks supervisor and event director Galen Poythress said Friday night’s thunder “woke me up and I thought about it. The storm cleared out quick though.”

“It’s always better if you don’t have a rain for about a week before this thing,” Strayhorn said years back, adding that the best thing for a good rodeo is that the fish leave the banks of the pond for deeper water, farther out.

Even better, the pond had recently been stocked with an additional 500 catfish in preparation for Saturday’s event.

As chairman of Orange County’s first recreation board, Strayhorn, now 85, began his Fishing Rodeo for kids at the pond on his New Hope Road farmland in 1978 as a chance for local recreation agencies to work together.

The rodeo was supported by Carrboro Recreation and Parks, Orange County Recreation and Parks, Orange County 4-H, the NC Cooperative Extension, the Department of Environment, Agriculture, Parks and Recreation, with support from area civic clubs and businesses.

Saturday’s cost-free fishing rodeo offered youths and their parents the opportunity to enjoy a morning of fishing and fun. Children aged 3 to 15 competed in three age groups, followed by a hotdog lunch on Strayhorn’s property.

The event has changed little since its inception nearly 40 years ago, when children first lined the northern banks of Strayhorn’s pond.

“It’s the same annual event this year,” Poythress said. “The pond’s stocked; the N.C. Wildlife Division is out here with a raffle for a lifetime fishing license; we have free bait available; there’s a rod repair and lending station; and we have a ton of volunteers here, including young volunteers from different high schools.”

“The best place to fish is actually on the other side,” Strayhorn pointed out, “But the banks (are too steep). We never have had an accident out here, and it’s best to keep it safe.”

Fishing seemed to be plentiful all along the entire shoreline, however.

For Jeff Rambis, the day represented an opportunity to introduce his eager kids to the fishing.

“My son Joel is 5, and this is his first opportunity to fish, but he’s been asking for a long time,” Rambis said. “Adrienne is 8, and she’s been asking too. They’ve been asking ever since we arrived in the state (from Colorado) in February.”

For Chris Moss and his granddaughter Lauren Wynn, 6, Strayhorn’s pond was just the next stop on a tour of state fishing holes.

“We have a pond at home, and we’ve been practicing,” Moss said. “I’m from Durham and Lauren’s from up the road in Prospect Hill. This is our first Orange County event. I was born and raised in Wake County, and we’ve been there several times. She just moved up from Jacksonville last summer.”

When asked what she hoped to catch, Wynn proclaimed, “Catfish,” and spread her arms about three feet wide for measure.

Next up for the young area anglers, Carrboro’s fishing instructors will be offering a free fishing clinic for kids 5-15 (parents are welcome) at Carrboro’s Hank Anderson Park Pond on Saturday, July 9 (9-11 a.m.) Another clinic will be offered on Saturday, Aug. 6.

Youngsters at the clinics can learn about equipment, techniques, sites and regulations. Supplies will be furnished, but those with poles can bring them. Call-in registration is required for the clinics.

Carrboro will also be offering five-day catch and release fishing camps for youths aged 8 to 12 years old. The camp runs 2:30-5 p.m. on weekdays, June 20-24, and again July 11-15. Participants can look forward to catching fish such as bass, bream, crappie, catfish and more. A freshwater lightweight spinning rod or Zebco equivalent is needed. The cost for each five-day camp is $85. Those wanting more information on either the upcoming clinics or camps should call Carrboro Recreation and Parks at 919-918-7364.

Along with the Cane Creek Reservoir, University Lake, and the Anderson Park pond in Carrboro, other fishing spots close to home in Orange County include Lake Michael in Efland (no fee) and Lake Orange (permit required). The Eno River flows right through Orange County.

No licenses are needed for fishing on private property like Strayhorn’s pond, licenses are required for fishing in public waters for anyone over 16 years old. Licenses are available at many gas stations or convenience stores where the NC Wildlife Commission’s diamond symbol is displayed. Fishing tackle loaner programs are also available at many locations where Wildlife Commission signs are displayed. For more information, visit