Eight-year-old Talon Wright learned some important lessons about catching giant catfish Saturday night. He learned the value of patience, and that nature can provide great ways to pass the time.

He also learned there’s fantastic fishing in some of Kansas’ most populated areas.

Talon and his dad, Rodney, fished at Gardner City Lake, a 120-acre Johnson County impoundment minutes from Kansas City. The lake is under special management by the Kansas Department of Wildlife, Parks and Tourism.

Three lines were baited with the dead shad and cast into the lake at about 5:30 p.m.

One hour passed without a bite, then another. As the sun went down, a lantern came

out and nature began to give Talon quite the show.

A bullfrog hopped up from the shore to feed on insects attracted by the lantern’s glow. “Jack the bullfrog,” caught bugs around the lantern for several hours, even after being held by Talon.

The Wrights watched small chunks of chicken breast, tossed into the shallows, get taken away by small snapping turtles. Still, though, not even the slightest nibble from a fish.

Gardner City Lake is part of Wildlife and Parks’ highly-successful Community Fisheries Assistance Program, that has opened hundreds of community and city impoundments to public fishing. The lake is also part of the department’s Urban Fishing Program, which means it gets extra fish stockings and a fish-feeding program.

But lots of fish available doesn’t always equate to lots of hungry fish.

Finally, at around 11:30, Talon’s dad said they’d fish until midnight, then head home if they still didn’t have a fish. It was several hours before Talon finally got to bed.

“It was about 11:50 when the bait clicker started to go off on one of my fishing reels,” said Rodney Wright. “Hearing that buzz is like drinking three cups of stout coffee. It gets you going in a hurry.”

Rodney man-handled the wildly bucking rod while Talon manned a light. Eventually what looked like a small hog wallowed and splashed in the shallows. It was the first time the boy had ever seen a truly big catfish.

“I was like “whoooooooaaaa,” said Talon. “That thing was so incredibly big.” It was so big, no matter how hard he struggled, he couldn’t get the fish, on a stringer, off the ground. Rodney measured it at 33 inches and estimated its weight at near 15 pounds.

After casting the baited line back out, Rodney announced they’d fish until 1:15 a.m.

“Sure enough, about the time we’re thinking about leaving one of the clickers started again at about 1:05,” said Rodney. Again, the fight was on.

Though fatter than the first catfish, the second also measured 33 inches. It was estimated around 18 pounds.

Unbeknownst to the Wright’s that’s the minimum length needed for channel cat to qualify for a Kansas’ Master Angler Award. A photo of the fish, with some requested information, will get the Wright’s certificates they can frame.

The Wright’s released the big catfish so some other angler can catch them again, when they’ll be even bigger.

Hopefully next time, they’ll bite on Talon’s line. He promised he’ll be ready.

Maybe it’ll even be Talon’s turn next year. By then the boy’s size, and patience level, will both be bigger.