Catfish, squirrels and geese: Oh my!


Torrance resident and retired repairman Jay Rhoads comes to Alondra park to feed the ducks and birds on Tuesday, March 14. (Nindiya Maheswari | The Union)

Cigarettes? Check.

Camping chair? Check.

Fishing rod? Check.

Kevin Johnson, a 56-year-old retired Gardena resident, checks off his list as he prepares for a relaxing fishing day at Alondra Community Regional Park.

Johnson parks his Honda Accord, takes his fishing gear out of the trunk, flings it onto his back, and makes his way to the occupied lake.

Other fishers at the park stand and wait with their rods in hand and hooks inside the water, waiting for catfish to catch their bait, but not Johnson.

Johnson passed the pavement and went straight to the dirt closest to the water. He drops his stuff on the ground and reaches for his fishing rod. He hooks the bait at the end of the hook and pulls it at the end.

Johnson flings the line back and forward for the bait to be thrown into the water. After the line is in the water, Johnson pitches his fishing rod on the moist dirt.

“That looks about right,” Johnson said as he set up his camping chair and radio.

He sits on his blue chair, takes a cigar from his 12-pack, and sings along to his radio.

“It’s relaxing to me,” Johnson said. “I catch about three fish every time I come out, mostly catfish.”

Johnson said Alondra Park is the closest park to him, and he enjoys fishing at Alondra because he’s not the only one fishing.

“Most of the time [fishers] come here, and no one really bothers anyone,” Johnson said.

Alan Takahashi, a 70-year-old retired sales representative, said he occasionally comes to fish at Alondra Park.

“I tried the catfish twice. The first time was terrible,” Takahashi said. “The second time was good.”

Takahashi said he started fishing when he was in grammar school. He said his dad taught him.

Alondra Community Regional Park is located next to El Camino College. The park is not only known for its geese and fishermen; it is also known for its involvement with the community.

“The park is open to everyone,” Lewis Piggee, recreation service leader at Alondra Community Regional Park, said.

Piggee started working at Alondra Park about three months ago and has been working in Parks and Recreation for 14 years.

“The community is very involved,” Piggee said.

Many residents have been around Alondra Park for many years. Creating connections with people they have met at the park.

Lawndale resident, Angelica Madrigal, has lived around Alondra Park for 30 years. She exercises at the park every morning around 7 a.m.

“A lot of people here know each other,” Madrigal said. “I have a friend that comes at the same time as me, and I have known her for 20 years.”

Aside from the many new employees to Alondra Community Regional Park, Ground Maintenance Staff Cedrick Buckner has been a community member of Alondra Park since 2000 and started working there in 2008.

His responsibilities include taking care of trees, fixing sprinklers, cleaning restrooms, and raking the leaves to clean the path for people to walk.

“I love the environment, the outside. I’ve always been an outside person,” Buckner said.

Cedrick Buckner, a ground maintenance worker at Alondra park who resides in Compton, cleaned up tree branches on the park ground Tuesday, March 14. (Nindiya Maheswari | The Union)
Ground maintenance worker Cedrick Buckner cleans up tree branches on the park grounds on Tuesday, March 14. (Nindiya Maheswari | The Union) Photo credit: Nindiya A Maheswari Putri

When The Union asked Buckner about fishing rules at the park, he said people are allowed to fish in the back section of the lake. Buckner said they restock two truckloads of catfish and bass twice a month.

“They have a tank in the back with water,” Buckner said. “They get here about 5 a.m. They arrive early before the people come [to the park].”

Birds typically migrate away from the lake around April, according to Buckner, however, since many people feed them, they stay at Alondra year-round.

Every morning, 67-year-old retired repairman Jay Rhoads comes to the park with a green plastic bag filled with peanuts and dog food.

“There’s a black cat over at the college [El Camino] that I go over to and feed,” Rhoads said. “She hangs out on the right in the corner of the parking lot [Lot F] where you turn into the parking.”

Rhoads has been visiting the park for the past five years. He used to come to the park with his neighbor to feed the birds early in the morning and now, he goes on his own.

“I just keep coming down here. I just like getting out in the morning, and as you get older, you got to exercise,” Rhoads said.

Rhoads spends an hour at the park every morning feeding the birds and said he feels lucky because he lives only a few blocks from the park.

“A lot of people actually don’t even know that there’s a lake. From the street, when you’re driving past the lake, you can’t really see the lake. So a lot of people don’t even know,” Rhoads said.

Rhoads feeds the birds, but squirrels also show up looking for peanuts. He said he can feel squirrels climbing up his pants whenever he ignores them.

The birds and squirrels approach anyone carrying a bag.

“When you come down here enough, you kind of get to know them [the birds], and they actually do have personalities,” Rhoads said.

Editor’s Note: Uploaded video on June 8.