Resident Audrey Higginbotham marvels at a big catch.

Residents of the Cartmell Home for the Aged in Palestine, TX, can no longer participate in some of the area’s popular pastimes, such as hunting and rodeo. But they can still show off their rod-and-reel skills. 

During an annual two-day event, residents of the 199-bed facility cast their lines into a 3,500-gallon tank set up on a shady part of the grounds. Brian Kitchen of the Austin-based company Let’s Go Fishin’ brings the tank, stocked with 350 to 400 pounds of catfish.

The year’s event had special twist, says administrator Debbie Harrison. 

There was an especially small fish in the tank, worth $20 to the caster who caught it. Since it’s catch-and-release, two residents hooked the comically unimpressive fish. Both earned the bounty. 

But it’s not only competitive fishermen who love the event. 

“People with dementia, in a wheelchair, some people who are almost bed-bound come out and grab a fishing pole,” says Harrison. 

The whole community comes together for the event. Visitors munch on hamburgers sold to raise funds, and cheer on the residents. Local kids sometimes take a turn fishing, and Harrison says the event brings out the inner child in the residents.

“They’re like a bunch of kids,” she says, laughing with childlike glee herself.