Six-year-old Remy Lightfoot lifts off his navy blue cap and squints into the late-afternoon sunlight before casting his fishing rod into the quiet water of the pond at Wayne Bartholomew Park in Springville.
It’s Remy’s first time fishing, and he’s already caught a medium-sized fish with shiny scales that he can’t identify. He’s here on Wednesday afternoon with his 13-year-old brother, Julian, and his grandfather, Larry Orton.
Remy, a Salt Lake City resident who informs the Daily Herald that he is actually 6½, sees a fish circling around his fishing line. Remy gets excited and, before the fish gets a chance to bite, he rapidly reels in his line.
Not ready to give up just yet, the angler in training walks over to Grandpa and gets another piece of cheese to use as bait.
Remy’s first time fishing took place as the Utah Division of Wildlife Resources is celebrating 20 years of its community fishing pond program, which launched in 2001 with roughly a dozen public fishing ponds across the state.
Two decades later, there are now 57 DWR-operated ponds throughout Utah, including the pond in Springville, and “dozens of thriving fishing clubs and angler education programs in the communities,” the agency said in a press release on Tuesday.
Other community fishing ponds in Utah County include the Highland Glen Park Pond and Manila Creek Park Pond in north Utah County, Vivian Park Pond in Provo Canyon and Canyon View Park Pond, Salem Pond and Spring Lake in south Utah County.
“Our community ponds are quite popular now,” DWR Northern Region Aquatics Manager Chris Penne said in the press release. “Last fall, we completed a survey at just six community fisheries in northern Utah, and in just two months, the ponds saw a combined 47,000 hours of fishing time. We are so glad that Utahns are using these ponds and enjoy fishing so close to home.”
DWR personnel stock the community ponds with locally raised rainbow trout on a biweekly basis in the fall and spring. Additionally, the ponds are stocked with channel catfish from Arkansas several times a year during the summer.
In addition to managing and stocking the ponds, DWR also oversees 34 community fishing clubs, which are open to youth aged 8 and older and are primarily run by volunteers.
Kristy Wolford, director of community and activities for Brigham City, one of the first cities to get involved with the community fisheries program, said the community ponds “provide amazing fishing access and are such a benefit for our residents.”
“I see people using these ponds every single day,” Wolford said in the press release. “Recently, I was driving through town and drove past two 10-year-old boys walking with their fishing rods and tackle boxes toward the pond, and it just brought a smile to my face because, isn’t that what it’s all about? To provide an opportunity for this next generation to enjoy Utah’s amazing outdoors.”
Remy was one of a handful of people fishing at Springville’s Wayne Bartholomew Park on Wednesday. Others utilized the public pond in other ways, including by paddle boarding across it or by laying out on its sandy shore.
Orton, a Nevada resident who grew up in Springville, said he liked the south Utah County community pond because it helps introduce kids to an activity that you “have to invest a lot of time and gear” into.
“So that’s the benefit of it, I think,” Orton said. “You’ve got a facility where kids can fish. And it’s pretty relaxed and noncompetitive.”
Remy asks Orton to help him untangle his fishing line. Orton does so, and then inquires if his grandson wants help casting the line. Remy replies that he wants to do it on his own.
Remy flicks his wrist and Orton smiles as the plastic bobber attached to the fishing line hits the water.
“Oh, good one!” Orton tells his grandson.