Wisps of clouds couldn’t tame the bright sunshine, but brisk winds of 20 mph generated a wind chill in the 40s that helped Kris Kringle feel a little more at home.
“The way it feels to me, it can’t be much colder than this at the North Pole,” Lamar Cason, of Warner Robins, told the white-bearded man in a red, fur-trimmed hat. “This punk from Georgia don’t like the cold weather, I can tell you that.”
With no snow for his sleigh, Santa was enjoying not having to cut holes in the ice before casting his rod into the pond where a 4-foot albino catfish is said to lurk.
Cason’s granddaughter, 6-year-old Kerri Cason, caught the biggest fish of the day. She returned it to the water after posing with Santa for a picture with her catch.
“Girl elfs do not like fishing,” Kerri declared, but Santa disagreed.
“They do like to fish,” he told her, pointing to costumed 12-year-olds Kiera Everly and Aria Buzhardt. The girls, who were passing out goodies in their “Candy Cane” and “Peppermint” personas, took poles and sat a spell on the small dock.
Pete and Tara Haussler, of Bonaire, brought their two children and a nephew to go fishing, but didn’t tell them Saint Nicholas would be there.
The youngsters were so surprised, they didn’t know what to say.
“They were so in awe, they picked up their fishing poles and went fishing,” Tara Haussler said.
Pete Haussler relished the idea of enjoying the simple, old-fashioned pastime with his family.
The Hausslers discovered the Go Fish center when they won a birthday party while on a tour during the Georgia National Fair.
“I think it’s one of our hidden treasures of this area,” she said.
The facility’s marketing director, Nancy McEver, said Fish with Santa debuted last year as a one-day event.
“This year, we felt like we needed to open it up all weekend,” McEver said.
With the price of admission, 80 people were able to chat with the Jolly Old Elf, who was dressed in a red and black plaid, flannel shirt.
“Do you know why we fish with hot dogs?” he asked one little boy. “It’s because the little girls don’t like the wiggly worms.”
Although Santa knows young people are smitten with electronic games, tablets and smartphones, he believes getting out in the fresh air is good for the children.
“There’s something about fishing, it doesn’t matter where you are, what kind of fishing you’re doing,” Santa said.
“There’s a certain amount of quiet. There’s a certain amount of concentration and a certain amount of focus that you get out of it.”
As the Haussler children warmed up enough to approach Santa, their 6-year-old cousin Nathan Lewis asked if he could go for a ride in the sleigh.
“Actually, the reindeer are resting up,” Santa replied. “In nine days, I have to travel all over the world.”
When considering whether Nathan was a good boy this year, Santa pulled out his list and discovered some infractions Aug. 14.
“You didn’t eat your vegetables and got in trouble with your mother,” he told Nathan.
“I didn’t know that,” the little boy replied.
Santa assured him that he had time to make up for it before Christmas Eve.