Families and fishing enthusiasts gathered in Row River Nature Park Saturday as part of the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife’s (ODFW) Family Fishing Event, the first of four events this year intended to generate an interest in fishing.
Despite the threat of downpour, turnout for the event was positive as anglers young and old cast their lines into a pond stocked by ODFW with 2,000 rainbow trout, giving newcomers to the recreation a high chance at reeling in their first catch.
“It’s a great activity,” said ODFW Fish Biologist Emma Garner. “It gets people connected to local habitat types. It gets people connected to local fish species. They get to be outside, enjoy being outside and learn a little bit in the process.”
Staff and volunteers were on site to provide rods, reels, bait and instruction on casting, catching and cleaning.
“The volunteers who are here have gone through classes to get certified to work with family groups and work on all the information you need to learn the basics of angling,” Garner said. “So you can show up to an event, just bring yourself and bring your interest and we provide the equipment, we provide the bait and we have volunteers that walk you through the process. … And you can leave with what you caught.”
On top of learning new skills, ODFW staff saw the event as an opportunity for families and communities to strengthen their bonds.
“You get to see families connecting to the outdoors and families connected to each other,” said Garner.
Jeff Ziller, District Fish Biologist for the ODFW South Willamette Watershed, took palpable joy in instructing new anglers at the pond.
“It gets people outside,” Ziller said. “The other thing is, it makes you self-sufficient. You can go out and get your meal. And that’s something today’s society doesn’t really understand all that well. It’s neat to be able to understand where your food is coming from.”
Portland resident Monique Porter made the trip down I-5 to Cottage Grove specifically for the opportunity to learn a new skill.
“I think this is a great event,” she said. “I’m really glad that I found out about it.”
With Ziller’s help, Monique snagged a rainbow trout on her first cast and brought the wriggling catch to a cleaning table where Ziller demonstrated the steps to gut and clean the fish.
“I think this was a really good experience,” said Porter. “It took the fear out of actually fishing and what it is you’re supposed to do.”
Future family fishing events this year will provide similar chances for fishing experience and education. Three more events are planned at Alton Baker Park Canoe Canal in Eugene on May 5, June 1 and June 15 as part of the Cumulus Media Kids Fishing Derby.
“If people are interested in being part the events, whether participating as anglers or participating as volunteers, they can reach out to their local office,” Garner said. “We hope that people can take what they learned here, bring it home and keep fishing and keep being a part of the community.”