At Woodlawn Preserve Saturday morning, 8-year-old Lainey Van der Veen swept a fishing pole behind her, paused, then swung forward and stopped, not releasing the button. She shifted her stance slightly, swept backward again, then swung forward with all her might, this time releasing the line.
The worm and bobber plunked down about six inches from the shoreline.
“Traumatic,” the 8-year-old commented.
It wasn’t so bad for her first time fishing. She kept at it, and before long at least some of her casts were arcing smoothly and respectably out into Delta Pond.
Lainey was at the preserve with her family for the first Fishing Day in the Woodlawn Preserve held by the Friends of the Woodlawn Preserve and the Woodlawn Neighborhood Association. The free event ran from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. with a barbecue at noon.
Interested fisherman didn’t even need to bring their own tackle; rods, bait and other essentials were available to use throughout the day.
“We just want to make people more aware that we have this here, and also get kids interested in fishing,” said Cole Denning, volunteer fishing coordinator. “It’s our hidden gem in the city. I guess it was in really bad shape about 10 years ago, and volunteers throughout the years have just brought it back to life — getting rid of the invasive species, keeping ATVs out. The big thing is the awareness that it’s here.”
In just the first two hours, about 50 people had come through to cast a line in the pond for bass, carp, or even just a sunfish.
Jason Vivian, 22, had two poles in the water for carp, which were worth a $2 bounty. He lives nearby and said he often fishes at the preserve.
“It’s the only thing local besides Central Park,” he said. “It’s a good thing they’ve got going here. There’s tons of carp in here. Bass fishing is pretty good, too. It’s a nice spot to have right here.”
The 130-acre Woodlawn Preserve is part of the Albany-Schenectady Pine Barrens and includes a little more than a mile of walking trails through sand plains, dune formations, pitch pine scrub barrens, and historic Karner Blue butterfly habitat, as well as the small Delta Pond.
Over the past several years, Friends of the Woodlawn Preserve has worked to bring awareness to the preserve with community cleanups, partnerships with Woodlawn Elementary to educate youth on the importance of natural resources, creation of the preserve’s trail system, and a special “Dive Against Debris” day to clean trash from the pond.
Some people at the preserve Saturday had been there before, some were discovering it for the first time.
Joe Helo, of Schenectady, who was fishing with a group of family and friends, said it was his first time to the preserve in a few years.
“There’s a lot of talk that they’ve been cleaning the place up, and it actually looks really good since the last time I was here,” he said.
Ronald Knapik, of Rotterdam, brought his 7-year-old granddaughter Addisyn Knapik, who had been wanting to try fishing since she saw her older brother do it recently. Knapik said the preserve offered a good opportunity to get her fishing because it was so close to home.
Addisyn cast and reeled several times before getting a nibble. She missed the fish, but found she’d lost the bait. As she gamely plucked a worm out of a styrofoam container and worked it onto the hook, she said she was having fun so far.
Then she added, “It’s more fun when I catch fish, though,” and cast her line back out into the pond.
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