MEMPHIS, Tenn. — Young people around the Mid-South were out on the lake Saturday morning at Martin Luther King Park in South Memphis, casting their reels and bringing in the catch.

For the first time since the start of the pandemic, Bloomfield Baptist Church brought back its Fishing Rodeo for children between the ages of 7 and 17.

“You hear so much negativity around young people. It is always good for children to be able to have a safe place to come have good clean fun and actually be exposed to something different than they have been exposed to,” said Darrick Harris with Bloomfield Urban Ministries.

For some of the children, it was their first time ever fishing. One beginner, Jordin Stokes, took home first place with a 14 pound fish.

“At first I was scared and then I was like, you know I can do this you are going to win first place and I did,” Stokes said.

The Fishing Rodeo has been going on for 18 years. Jerome Townes participated when he was 12-years-old. Saturday, he was back with his daughter.

“We keeping that good positive family energy going. I am seeing people from when I was a kid now and I see they grandkids. It is a positive thing, we need this for our city,” said Townes.

Saturday is Tennessee’s Bobby Wilson Free Fishing Day. All state residents and visitors of any age could fish free without a license in Tennessee’s public waters. Those 15 or younger can fish free through Friday, June 16.

Fishing organizers said children need different types of life experiences to become the best versions of themselves.

“We experience the normal of violence, we experience the normal of negativity but creating an experience for our inner city youth to fish is beyond the norm,” said Maurice Fuller, Pastor at Bloomfield Baptist Church.

They said the best part of the day was seeing the children and having a great time just being children.