On Oct. 6, a woman was visiting the Dallas Arboretum and Botanical Garden and witnessed maskless visitors sticking their hands in the koi pond. As she captured video through her phone, the individuals attempted to catch fish with their bare hands.
"I was just horrified and wanted to post it," the woman, who asked not to be identified, tells the Observer. "I didn't think it was gonna go anywhere."
The woman's video went viral after she posted it to Reddit. The footage features a group of adults with children in the Arboretum's Lay Family Garden trying to fish in the koi pond using nothing but their hands.
"There are signs that say, 'Don't feed the fish,'" she says. "Maybe they need one that says, 'Don't fish the fish' or 'Don't noodle the fish.'"
She says she was visiting the arboretum with relatives from out of town because "it's just a really beautiful place to be in the fall."
She first noticed the group of fishing fools as they passed her on the opposite side of the pond. She says she noticed them because they were playful at first and weren't wearing face masks.
"The kid got down first, and the adult males joined them," she says. "They were just playing around and pretending to shove the kids in the water, and then they started sticking their hands in the water."
The family spent a couple of minutes trying to noodle one of the koi, a term for a style of fishing where the fishers only use their hands to catch fish. Our source says she pulled out her phone and recorded them, but the family never noticed because she was "pretending to take a selfie the whole time."
No one visiting or working at the park approached the family during their fishing expedition.
"Obviously, a person who works there who saw this — and a lot of people pointed it out to me in my post that they probably only get paid 10, 15 bucks an hour — so, it's probably not worth it to tell somebody to stop if it could blow up in their face," the unidentified woman says. "[The employee] was just cleaning the koi pond at first and we all were just staring at this family horrified, but nobody wanted to go up to them because they never know how people will react these days."
Four days later, she posted the video to her private Instagram page and on Reddit groups for "Dallas" and the oh-so-appropriate "iamatotalpieceofshit" and "trashy." The video got more than 52,000 votes before making the rounds on social media, with the usual mixed bag of responses — from outraged comments to the needlessly political.
"The response was 50-50," she says. "A lot of people were bothered while others were saying 'Who cares if they're maskless?' Well, we're in the middle of a pandemic and the arboretum required them. Then it got political."
The arboretum released a statement about the incident noting there are signs posted inside and outside the grounds that clearly state its "safety protocols."
"We have insisted that people wear a mask for the entire time of their visit unless dining or medically unable to do so," the statement reads. "Although we have more people in the garden on major paths, it still surprises us when people blatantly take off their masks or in this instance disturb the koi, which are for guests to enjoy, not catch.
"The vast majority of our visitors are so courteous so this was very distressing," the statement reads. "Our top priority is the health and safety of our guests, volunteers and staff and preserving the beauty of our garden. It was embarrassing that this event happened on our property."