Free fishing:?first time catching

Eve Thompson
Huck Finn and Tom Sawyer would have fit right in with the families casting for fish on the Aug. 21 Kids’ Free Fishing Day, sponsored by the California Department of Fish and Game.

Five-hundred kids will have a great fish story to tell on their first day back to school, and it definitely won’t be about the one that got away.

“This is not my first time fishing,” laughed 15 year old Noah Miranda who came with his father, Carlos, from Anderson to the Mount Shasta Fish Hatchery Free Fishing day, “but it is my first time catching. I caught a one pounder and a three pounder!”

“I caught two fishies,” bragged six year old Kate Suber. “I’m the only six year old with these people, my friend, my dad, my friend’s dad, my papa, and my brother, and it’s my first time catching fish. I’ve fished lots of times. Didn’t know what it felt like ever to catch one. It felt like it would pull me in, and it made me sore.”

“It’s my first time fishing and my first time catching,” chimed in five year old Liz West, Kate’s friend. “It felt like catching a movie.”

“I caught two fish,” seven year old Luke Johnson, Liz’s cousin, said. “I enjoy casting and reeling. It’s really fun. I caught the first fish today and I caught the biggest one. I haven’t caught one before.”

“Yes, you have,” Grandpa Richard Suber interrupted.

“Yeh, but it wasn’t as big as today. I want to come back here to fish.” Luke’s grandfather chuckled.

Free Fishing Day was a family fun destination for the Subers, Johnson and Wests who live in Redding. “The girls prompted the trip. I thought we’d show them what it’s like, see if they enjoyed it,” said Adam West, Liz’s father. “She really likes casting and the kids had a great time.”

“I was raised with a fishing pole in my hands,” laughed Grandpa Suber as Kate, Liz and three year old Riley, Kate’s little brother who also caught two fish, ran circles around him. “My parents loved to fish, and our family has fished quite a bit over the years. It’s a family tradition. We lived here, up McCloud Avenue from 1977 to ’82, until the mills closed and we had to move to get work. It’s nice to come back here with the family, watch the kids fish.”

DFG, volunteers, families

The California Department of Fish and Game has sponsored the free fishing day for 18 years. Normally, 600 to 700 children cast their lines into one of the three ponds stocked with trout provided by the Hatchery.

Kokanee Power, a volunteer group of anglers who support fishery related programs throughout the state, paid for all the tackle, bait, reels and nets for this year’s event, according to Monty Currier, DFG fishery biologist.

A dozen other organizations contribute time, money and volunteers, among them the Mount Shasta Lions Club, Mount Shasta Hardware, Mount Shasta Sons in Retirement, and the Vietnam Veterans of America.

“We couldn’t do this without our supporters. And the guys at the Hatchery are great. They let us tramp on their space, they provide the fish. They jump at the chance to help,” Currier said.

“In 2008, 963 kids fished in our ponds,” Currier laughed. “Two busses from Tehama came up. It was an amazing number of people. I think we’ll have about 500 today. People come from Idaho, Washington, Nevada, all over the country. Families plan their vacations around it – they come each year until their kids are 15. It’s great for community spirit.”

“We’ll definitely come back,” said Ryan Zumalt and Teri Burk who brought their own children and several neighborhood children. Together, the group netted a dozen fish.

Eight year old Kristina Burk caught the biggest fish, two-year old Chloe caught her two fish limit even though she fell in casting, and 14 year old Nicole also caught her quota even though she fell into the pond, losing her cell phone while looking at her catch. “Next time we’ll bring a change of clothes,” Teri quipped.

“And I won’t bring a phone,” laughed Nicole.

‘The jerking on the line’

“It’s a great first time experience for those who have never caught,” noted Ryan. “The excitement! You can see their eyes light up every time they get one on.” Ryan comes from a family of fishers. “It’s been passed down from generation to generation.”

“That’s why you’re going to clean and cook them,” Teri said as she hugged him.

“This is an awesome event,” commented Jack Gossett, who brought his eight year old daughter Emily and 14 year old son Alex. “They supplied everything; they really wanted the kids to be successful. My hat goes off to everyone who helped. This is a first class job.”

“It’s relaxing, easy going, fun,”?Alex said. “This is my first time fishing here. My sister caught a bigger one than me, but I’ll be back. Over the winter, I miss that feel, the jerking on the line. To get back in the groove, I have to fish.”

Whether they laughed over their fishing triumphs or bickered over who was going to clean and cook the fish, hundreds of families agreed that the Free Fishing Day was one of Mount Shasta’s best family events.

“Fishing together keeps a family together. We’ve got to keep that legacy going,” noted Denver Eaton, as he tucked six year old Madison, two year old Annabella, and their four fish, into the truck for the ride home.

"If I catch Nemo, I'm putting him back in," one young fisher said during the Free Fishing Day at the Mount Shasta Hatchery Aug. 21, 2010.