Anglers of all ages cast a line at the Shepherd of the Hills Fish Hatchery Saturday for a free day of fishing.

Leah Eden, naturalist at the Shepherd of the Hills Fish Hatchery, said the event coincides with Missouri’s free fishing weekend and is the 22nd year the hatchery has hosted the event.

“We want to give everyone a chance to go fishing,” Eden said. “So we open up our education pond for kids 15 and younger to come and try their hand at fishing.”

According to Eden, the event serves as a way to not only promote more time outdoors, but continues the mission of the hatchery as well as conservation in general.

“All the fish we raise in the fish hatchery are intended to go out in Missouri,” Eden said, adding sunfish, catfish and a few bass were in the pond for Saturday’s event. “Everything we’re raising is intended to be caught.”

“In Missouri fishing is one of the ways we manage our streams and lakes,” Eden said. “So by encouraging people to go fishing it helps us with our management but it also goes into encouraging people to get outdoors.”

One pair among the many taking part in Saturday’s event was Elaina Brand, 4, of Republic, and her father Russell. According to Russell, the pair were planning on hiking when they saw the opportunity to fish for free.

“It’s a daddy-daughter opportunity to get out and enjoy the outdoors,” Russell said.

While it wasn’t their first fishing trip together, both Russell and Elaina said they liked the opportunity to fish.

“She loves sitting there and watching the bobber,” Russell said. “Baiting the hook and watching the worms wiggle around and when she catches a fish seeing the different colors.”

In addition to offering a free fishing opportunity, Eden said the event also featured a number of educational stations as well.

“We have some practice casting if they want to throw a fly rod or a regular fishing pole,” she said. “We have a station where you learn about tying knots and different equipment you can use for fishing. We have the (U.S. Army Corps of Engineers) doing water safety, which is always important if you’re down on the water and we have a fish ID station to let kids know what kind of fish they’ll be catching today.”

For those in new and returning anglers Saturday, Eden said she hopes the event led to a greater appreciation for the ways to enjoy nature.

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