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Trout group posing for a photo. Photo by Kristina Peterson.

Trout group posing for a photo. Photo by Kristina Peterson.


Hooked on Family Fishing: Breaking Through Environmental Barriers

By Kristina Peterson, Education Coordinator
May 28, 2021

I t is lightly drizzling and I pull into the parking lot at Glenn Otto Park in Troutdale, Oregon on Saturday, April 24th, 2021. The inaugural Hooked on Family Fishing Day hosted by the Association of Northwest Steelheaders) (ANWS) has finally arrived, something that I had been planning for over 4 months. Banners are hung, 50 rainbow trout are happily swimming in their portable pond, and our 12 volunteers are anxiously waiting at their activity stations. I sit down at the check in table, take a deep breath, and reflect on my time leading up to the event. “What if” scenarios flashed through my head as I spent my days wondering: “How many families would show up? What would the weather be like? Do I have all my supplies?”. However, today was finally the day where everything would come together and it was time to welcome our 25 participants and 8 families.

In a typical year, the Confluence Environmental Center AmeriCorps Member, shared between ANWS and National Wildlife Federation, would plan Family Fish Camp, an overnight 3 day event dedicated to angling education. ANWS is the state affiliate of the National Wildlife Federation in Oregon and is a fishing advocacy organization dedicated to enhancing and protecting fisheries and their habitats for today and tomorrow. Throughout their 11-month service term, the AmeriCorps Member also dedicates time to engaging diverse and motivated communities through our Fish Eggs to Fry Program and Garden for Wildlife. Unfortunately, with the COVID-19 pandemic, Family Fish Camp wasn’t a realistic option and cancelling for the second year in a row wasn’t favorable either. That is when a lightbulb went off in my head, “what about a one day family fishing event geared towards our scholarship families?”, I asked ANWS staff. This was a new concept for ANWS, but I was confident that I could adapt the Family Fish Camp model into a COVID-19 safe event that built on the successes from the last four years of Family Fish Camp. In a year filled with quarantine and virtual learning, it was important for me to provide a memorable experience for families who historically have not had access to the outdoors. With everyone on board, Hooked on Family Fishing Day was underway...

Event participant, Zaire, catching his first fish. Photo by Kristina Peterson.

Families eagerly gathered in their small rotational groups as morning activity stations began. Like a bee buzzing to new flowers, I made my way through each station: Knot Tying, Fishing 101 (water safety), Fred the Fish/Fish Prints, and Casting. I watched as children learned to cast a rod in the water for the first time, the excitement of creating a fish print that could be taken home, and inquisitive minds learning how to tie that perfect knot.

The day was flying by as we moved into the afternoon stations. In honor of Earth Week and the Garden for Wildlife program, families had the opportunity to fill their own pot with soil and plant a native wildflower from Bosky Dell Natives to take home. At other stations, families observed a fish dissection and created their very own tackle box. But, nothing compares to the excitement of the trout pond! I stood back with camera in hand waiting in anticipation for a trout to bite. All of a sudden I hear a participant shout, “I caught one, I caught one!” My heart races as I rush over to get the perfect picture.

Aspen practicing casting at the waterfront. Photo by Kristine Gutshall.

At the end of a long day, participants were finally ready to go home, but not without one last surprise! Each participant was able to leave the event with a trout, life jacket, fishing pole, native wildflower, pair of gardening gloves, loaded tackle box, water safety resources, and SO MUCH MORE! As families gathered their gear I heard, “This was way more than I expected!”, “We are planning a fishing day with all of our new items!”, “We can’t wait to come back next year!”. Filled with gratitude, I sent off extra food and beverages to the Troutdale Free Fridge and donated our extra native wildflowers to the Equitable Giving Circle. It was finally time to clean up and end our successful Hooked on Family Fishing Day.

“It was great to finally see it all come together. After not having in person events for so long, this was the perfect one to start off the new year. You could see it in the families faces as well. I think everyone was happy to be outside and not have to think about anything else except catching fish.”

Chris Hager, Association of Northwest Steelheaders Executive Director

Chinook group posing for a photo. Photo by Kristina Peterson.

This event was made possible by our partners of color, The Confederated Tribes of Siletz Indians, People of Color Outdoors, and Get Hooked Foundation who recruited our participating families and provided funding for our giveaway items. We also can’t forget our amazing volunteers including, Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife (ODFW) staff, ANWS volunteers, AmeriCorps Members, and National Wildlife Federation staff.


This event was sponsored by: Saling Foundation, Camps for Kids, National Wildlife Federation, Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife: Salmon & Trout Enhancement Program, Starbucks, Sportsman’s Warehouse, Gerber, Oregon State Marine Board, Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife, Get Hooked Foundation, Littleleaf Guide Service, People of Color Outdoors, Confederated Tribes of Siletz, World Salmon Council, and Association of Northwest Steelheaders Chapters: Sandy River, Tualatin Valley, Tom McCall, and McLoughlin.

Patrice, Aspen, and Rainbow making fish prints. Photo by Morgan Parks / NWF Staff.

Aspen posing with his native wildflower. Photo by Kristina Peterson.

AmeriCorps Member, Kristina posing with her rainbow trout. Photo by Mark Peterson..

Jesse holding his rainbow trout. Photo by Kristina Peterson.

Steelheaders volunteer, LeRoy, and ODFW STEP Biologist, John Cox, leading the knot tying station. Photo by Kristina Peterson.

Steelheaders Volunteer, Dishaun, teaching Aspen how to cast into the water. Photo by Kristina Peterson.

Trout group posing for a photo. Photo by Kristina Peterson.

Alix holding her trout. Photo by Kristina Peterson.