By Gray Sorensen, Education & Outreach Coordinator with NWF and ANWS
June 1, 2022
This article was originally published on National Wildlife Federation’s Blog and is copied here for reference.
T he weather on the morning of April 30th, 2022 was indecisive. Patches of blue sky and sun dared everyone to hope that the torrential rain forecasted for the day might just decide to pass on by. At the entrance to Camp Angelos, 15 cars were parked in a line waiting for the clock to strike eight and the gate to open.
Volunteers had arrived with the punctuality and anticipation of an angler to set up for the 2022 Hooked on Family Fishing Day event hosted by the Association of Northwest Steelheaders. They could not wait to teach the participant families about fishing and share their knowledge and passion for angling. When the gate finally opened everyone rushed to a parking spot eager to help wherever they could. As families began to arrive they were greeted by staff for check-in.
Fun morning rotations engaged families in casting, fly fishing, fishing 101, and knot tying. At the casting station, volunteers taught everyone the basics of casting in the field. “I caught so many grass fish!” one child said with excitement. On the bank of the Sandy River, participants were introduced to fly fishing. With fly rods in hand, they followed the expert direction of Alysia and Elke from the Littleleaf Guide Service. Some kids discovered an innate talent they never knew they had while others honed their skills under the expert eyes of the Littleleafs.
Back at the lodge, everyone got a crash course in water safety and fishing regulations in fishing 101. They watched as volunteers acted out what to do in an emergency situation. In another classroom, they harnessed all of their concentration on learning knots at the knot tying station. Volunteers passed on their expertise as they taught the next generation of anglers the knots they used to land prize catches.
After a jam-packed morning full of new experiences and skills, it was time for lunch. Families and volunteers gathered together in the lodge to eat and listen carefully for their numbers to be called in the afternoon raffle. Now and then a collective “aww” of disappointment would fill the lodge which would abruptly change to a shout of joy when someone’s numbers were finally called. Everyone left the prize table with full hands and happy smiles. No one noticed the pounding rain over all the excitement.
After lunch, families, and volunteers headed to their afternoon stations. Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife (ODFW) STEP biologist, John Cox, dissected salmon carcasses in front of a captivated audience. Kids put on gloves and got their hands dirty as they assisted with the dissection. An endless stream of questions kept everyone busy and ensured they all left the station as salmon anatomy experts.
The second station of the afternoon, and favorite overall, took place at the pond that had been stocked with 160 rainbow trout. Everyone baited their hooks and cast their lines into the water. Almost instantly the fish began biting and soon people were reeling in fish — some small, some gigantic.
Volunteers ran around baiting hooks, netting fish, and taking pictures of prize catches. As the fishing continued, volunteers came up with clever strategies to help those who struggled to catch something. When they felt a tug they would let out a shout, “I think I am stuck in the bottom!” and ask the kids around them, “can you come and help me?”. The child would rush over and begin to reel with all their might. Soon they were posing for pictures with their catch.
As the afternoon continued the weather took a turn. No one had been bothered by the rain at lunch but the downpour at the pond got everyone’s attention. This marked the end of the day for some participants but others persevered. It was clear they had found their passion for fishing and were determined to keep going.
As families began to leave they were sent home with a tackle box, a bag of fishing resources, and rods for each child in the family. These supplies were generously donated by the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife (ODFW), the ODFW Angler Ed program, Coast Products, and the Oregon State Marine Board. Another successful family fishing event in the books for the Steelheaders.
With the help of our partners, Littleleaf Guide Service, the Confederated Tribes of the Siletz Indians, NAYA, People of Color Outdoors, and the Get Hooked Foundation, the Association of Northwest Steelheaders were able to host 13 families with 22 volunteers helping to teach 35 participants all about the joys of fishing. Thank you to Camp Angelos for hosting, Brian Trout Ranch for stocking the pond, and Starbucks for donating the coffee.