If the cheerful squealing of kids catching their first fish was all the reward dozens of volunteers needed, they were well paid on Saturday.
“If they’re like me, they’ll squeal like that for the rest of their lives when they catch a nice fish,” Neal Beechinor of the Inland Empire Fly Fishing Club said.
More than 700 kids took part in the annual Kids Fishing Day at Clear Lake. For $10, they took home a rod and reel rigged for fishing plus their limit of trout and memories of a great time on the water with their families.
About 11,000 rainbow trout were delivered in five truckloads from three hatcheries to be put in net pens around the docks and shoreline of the Fairchild Air Force Base recreation site on the lake, said Randy Osborne, Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife district fisheries biologist who coordinated the effort.
“Anything the kids don’t catch, we release into the lake for anglers after the last kid leaves,” he said.
“We had about 60 volunteers from seven clubs who rigged up all the rods on April 22,” said Tim Clifford, with the Inland Northwest Wildlife Council. “Then another 60 or so volunteers were at the main event Saturday plus about 30 who came on Friday to help with the special fishing event we have for about 30 kids from the Ronald McDonald House.”
Volunteers at the event baited hooks and helped handle the fish hauled in by the kids. They even cleaned fish the kids took home. If the families didn’t want the fish, other volunteers cleaned the trout and packed them on ice for distribution to area food banks.
“We’ve had over 300 pounds of fish donated from this event in the past,” said Jim Kujala, who opened a cooler full of fish on ice ready for the food banks to distribute.
“This year we had only 154 pounds donated, which means more families were keeping the fish they caught. That’s a good thing because it means they’re taking the experience home.”
Sign-ups for the event are accepted each year by the Fish and Wildlife Department staff in Spokane starting in March.