‘We looked for him’: Fishermen come out for Free Fishing Day and the search for Walter

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BRISTOL, Tenn. (WJHL) – Hundreds came out to South Holston Lake Saturday for Tennessee’s Free Fishing Day, but there was extra excitement in the air this year as fishermen aimed to catch a big prize.

“Pretty excited, I mean $100,000 is, you know,” Fisherman William Lester said.

Lester was hoping to reel in “Ol’ Walter 2.0,” a fish tagged and released by Watson’s Marine this weekend and worth $100,000.

“We looked for him, but there was no luck in finding Walter,” Lester said.

Lester wasn’t the only one coming up empty handed, Bristol resident Arnold Kelsey said the same.

“Wanting to try to catch Ol’ Walter, but you know how that goes, he must be in another state,” Kelsey said. “I don’t believe I can catch him.”

According to Watson’s Marine manager Rex Pendergrass, people have been coming from all over to find Walter.

“Kentucky, I know there’s some people supposedly coming in from Michigan, mostly neighboring states like Georgia, North Carolina, South Carolina,” Pendergrass said.

Pendergrass said even on a traditional year Free Fishing Day brings in a lot of people to the store.

“Free fishing day is really a boom,” Pendergrass said. “It gets people interested in the outdoors and back on the lakes.”

The day, put on by the Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency, means anyone can fish without a fishing license in public waters.

While the day ends on Saturday for adults, children ages 15 and under can continue fishing without a license through Friday, June 18.

Penny Kelsey said she’s noticed more people out on the water Saturday.

“We had some here earlier that said they were coming back tomorrow, but they were going to get their license in Tennessee,” Kelsey said. “So, I thought that was really good.”

The search for Walter will continue until 11:59 p.m. on Sunday, or when he is caught, whichever comes first.

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