Arriving from Dalton with his family before sunrise Saturday morning, Christian Gillespie planned to hook "the big one" during the annual Kids Fishing Rodeo at Amicalola Falls State Park.
Sitting back with his feet in the ice-cold trout pond, the 7-year-old was near the limit by 9 a.m., but not ready to reel in his line.
"They're really biting today," he said, tugging on his bucket hat to shield his eyes from the blazing sun.
Gillespie joined hundreds of young anglers for the free contest Saturday at the trout pond by the bottom of the waterfall. The pond had been overstocked just a day before, so the children were almost guaranteed to catch a fish, provided they were patient enough.
Though just 4 years old, Isaiah Fitts of Cumming has learned a few tricks of trout fishing, consistently placing in the contest each year.
Will McKinney, 4, of Lumpkin County also hoped to win a prize for the 12.5-inch rainbow trout he hooked with his father, who said the family takes advantage of the park's special events.
Last month, Amicalola Falls State Park dodged the first round of a state restructuring plan, which will limit operations and services at five state parks.
Park manager Bill Tanner said residents can do their part to show a need for operations and services at Amicalola Falls by continuing to visit.
With more than eight miles of walking and hiking trails leading to Springer Mountain, the southern end of the 2,135-mile Appalachian Trail, Amicalola is one of Georgia's most popular state parks.
The lodge atop the mountain is popular with guests who prefer hotel-type comforts, while a five-mile hike leads to more remote accommodations at the Len Foote Hike Inn.
The park is open from 7 a.m. to 10 p.m. daily.
Upcoming events include an Independence Day weekend celebration and a wilderness survival weekend Aug. 29 and 30. Events are free with the $5 parking fee.
E-mail Michele Hester at firstname.lastname@example.org.