Ocotillo District Councilmember Jamie Aldama promises big fish in a small pond April 21 at Bonsall Park South.

The Arizona Game & Fish Department just stocked the waters with about 2,500 extra pounds of channel catfish for the fourth annual Hook a Kid on Fishing event set for 8 a.m. to noon April 21 at the park on the southeast corner of 59th Avenue and Bethany Home Road.

“Some fish they catch, and this is not a ‘fish story’ if you will, they’re probably 18 inches in length, if not bigger,” Aldama said. “They’re huge. Some are 20 (inches).”

The pond, which is part of Game & Fish’s Community Fishing Program, is regularly stocked with catfish, sunfish, bass and trout throughout the year. But come April 21, anglers will most likely hook catfish and sunfish.

“I just stocked it (April 11) with about 160 pounds of bluegill,” said Scott Gurtin, Arizona Game & Fish Department’s Community Fishing Program supervisor. “Catfish are gonna be the most plentiful species in the pond, but we’ve stocked it pretty good with bluegill, so we hope to see a good mix.”

Catfish is a highly desired fish in Arizona, Aldama said.

“It’s one of the most tasteful fish once it’s prepared,” he said.

As much as Aldama likes the taste of fish, he had another motive for launching the event four years ago.

“My wife, Monica, and I have three children and we’ve raised all three outdoors, hunting and fishing,” he said. “My son James really excelled at it, and so fast forward when I ran for office in 2014, my son said, ‘Dad, if you win your race, can you start an event for fishing?’”

Aldama won the race and one of the first things he did after taking office was establish the Hook a Kid on Fishing event.

“He and I are the brainchildren around it if you will,” he said. “It’s meant to get kids at the youngest age out to really just get hooked on fishing, get out there and fish and get away from the technology that we’re all used to, get away from the home, get out to the lake and let’s go fishing.”

A crucial element to getting children hooked on fishing is giving them the necessary supplies, Aldama said. So he partnered with Game & Fish, which provides loaner fishing poles, tackle and bait during the event.

“Any child that comes that doesn’t have a fishing pole, or an adult, will sign up with the Game & Fish at the site and they’ll get a fishing pole and everything you need to fish that day,” he said.

Game & Fish will also teach children angling basics, such as how to tie hooks and fishing techniques.

“We have certified angler instructors that come and help,” Gurtin said. “So basically, they try to teach the basics. It’s mainly geared toward someone that’s never done it before and just wants to know the essential elements in order to get started.”

Aldama also solicits donations from various people and businesses to buy fishing licenses to give to every child ages 10 to 17 who attends the event.

 “Part of the brainstorm my son and I thought of was, let’s not only do a fishing event, let’s make sure these kids have what they need to fish,” he said. “To bring a kid out and fish is good, but let’s get them a fishing license so their parents can take them out the rest of the year until the event comes back next year.”

Around 300 youths received free fishing licenses last year, Aldama said.

“It’s a state-issued standard fishing license,” he said. “You can go anywhere and that was the premise behind it: let’s hook the kids on fishing today, let’s give them a license, they’ll take a pole away and they have everything they need to go out fishing with their families.”

Cabela’s is a major sponsor, donating fishing poles, tackle and ball caps that are given away during raffles, which occur about every 15 minutes during the event.

Water and hot dogs will be provided, as well.

Aldama stressed no age limit is required to participate in the event, but that it’s meant to get children interested in fishing.

“This is an event that my sons and I started to give children another avenue to keep them busy,” he said. “And something that will be a lifelong lesson to teach them, aside from the technology that they have afforded to them.”

Gurtin applauds Aldama for heading a wholesome event that gets children out of the house.

“I really have to credit Councilmember Aldama,” Gurtin said. “He’s the one who really spearheaded the initial Hook a Kid on Fishing event. He’s just been such a great supporter of trying to get kids engaged in this type of activity. Get ’em outdoors and doing something fun. I guess if there’s a message that we just want to convey to the people, it’s fishing in these community parks is established to be something the entire family can do, it’s not just for kids or adults, but we’d really like to see families get engaged.”