By Nita Johnson
LAUREL COUNTY, Ky. —
Forget YouTube and Animal Planet’s famed “Turtle Man.”
London has its own in a miniature form, known locally as “The Turtle Boy.”
Nine-year-old Jayden Smith is making waves in the turtle capturing arena, recently hooking a reptile so large that he required his grandfather’s assistance to pick it up.
“I’ve never seen a turtle this big,” marveled the young boy who has earned the name of “The Turtle Boy” from regulars at Patton’s Livestock Market on Dixie Street.
His largest catch came on Tuesday, July 10 with a turtle weighing approximately 40 pounds.
“He had to have Dad (Bobby Overbey) help him lift it to put it in the truck,” said Overbey’s son, Bobby Jr. “It took both of them to get it. Neither one could lift it by himself.”
Smith, who lives in Richmond but spends most of his weekends and all summer with his grandfather on Hawk Creek Road, has been fishing “since I was a little kid.” But as his grandfather’s shadow at the livestock sales each week, Smith branched his interests from the stockyards to the creek that runs through the property to pursue his fishing interests.
While his fishing efforts were fruitless, the experience launched his interest in catching turtles after he spied one buried in the mud along the creekline.
Thus, the morning trips for Smith and Overbey have evolved into cattle buying for grandpa and a turtle hunting excursion for the 9-year-old.
Using large hooks and spoiled meat, such as beef ribs and steak, as his bait, Smith said he uses staging (strong nylon line) to reel in his catches from the stream.
Though the 40-pound catch was indeed his largest size-wise, it was by far less than his usual quota.
“I caught eight turtles yesterday,” Smith said, “and I caught four last week.”
His success in landing turtles has earned him the name as one of two “Turtle Boys” by patrons to the south London stockyard.
“He has a friend Bill who goes with him to catch turtles,” the elder Overbey said. “They call them “The Turtle Boys” because of the (Kentucky) Turtle Man.”
Indeed, “The Turtle Man” — Kentucky’s own Ernie Smith Jr. — has risen to fame by clearing green-covered ponds of turtles, catching them with his bare hands.
Smith, however, has no such dreams, remaining content to hook the creek inhabitants with his ‘turtle hook’ and pulling the smaller ones out himself and calling for assistance from grandpa when the larger catches come along.
“I’m just going to continue to hunt turtles,” he said.