Austin Smith, 8, shows off his catch of the day, a little bluegill from the pond at Kentucky Heritage Hills Park. “I feel really good,” Smith said about his catch.

It was one of those hazy, lazy summer evenings Tuesday night when kids, volunteers and parents gathered at Kentucky Heritage Hills Park to sit back, relax and wait for a bite.

They were there pond-side in support of “Hooked on Fishing, Not on Drugs,” an event put on by the London-Laurel County YMCA and UNITE Coalition. Kids either came with their parents or were teamed up with mentors.

“The goal of the event is we’re trying to have a positive influence on kids,” YMCA CEO Don Burgin said. “A lot of times kids will tell a mentor something they won’t tell their parents.”

The turnout was good, with about 20 kids casting their lines in the water, many for the first time.

One of them was Makayla Smith, wearing a sizable pink life jacket. Just half an hour into the event, she had already caught two fish and was hoping for more.

Sitting on a tackle box beside her was her brother Austin, who had yet to catch anything.

“He’s very disappointed,” mother Tiffany Smith said laughing. “It’s very fun to watch them.”

T.C. Collins was also on the bank with his line in the water.

“It’s fun,” he said.

Patricia Owens, who came with her son Robert, agreed.

“It’s his first time fishing,” she said of her 4 year old. “He loves it.”

Luckily, the fish were also in a biting mood. Burgin said about 50 fish were caught (and subsequently released) from the pond’s waters throughout the evening, with a few kids pulling in more than 10 fish each.

Around 7 p.m. Austin Smith presented his first fish.

“It feels really good,” he said smiling.

Another Hooked on Fishing event is planned for July 31. Parents can drop off kids at the YMCA at 5 p.m. They will be brought by bus to the pond at Kentucky Heritage Hills. Parents coming with their children can arrive at the pond at 6 p.m. The event is free. Dinner will be provided.

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