A Fun Furlough at Family Fish Camp

Cabins tucked away in a serene forest next to one of Oregon’s most beautiful rivers? Check.

A pond stocked with over 500 rainbow trout? Check.

Families giddy with excitement about learning the basics of fishing? Check.

Camp attendee, Sterling, shares a smile with his first weekend catch. Photo Credit: Morgan Parks/NWF Staff

On a fun-filled weekend in March, the 4th annual Family Fish Camp along the Sandy River near Portland, Oregon brought 92 attendees, 30 families, and 40 volunteers together to enjoy the outdoors, learn basic fishing skills, and further a collective goal of conservation and stewardship. Family Fish Camp is the signature youth education event hosted by the Association of Northwest Steelheaders (ANWS), the state affiliate of National Wildlife Federation in Oregon. ANWS is a fishing advocacy organization comprised of anglers dedicated to enhancing and protecting fisheries and their habitats for today and tomorrow. Each year, Family Fish Camp is planned and organized by ANWS and NWF’s shared AmeriCorps member, serving an 11-month term through Confluence Environmental Center. In addition, they engage under-served communities in programs like Fish Eggs to Fry and Garden for Wildlife.

For this year’s event, ANWS partnered with Get Hooked, Brown Folks Fishing, and Littleleaf Guide Service, all of which are organizations led by people of color. With them, ANWS engaged diverse community members and removed barriers that prevent families from connecting with nature. These key partners also helped to identify families in need of financial assistance, to which ANWS provided scholarships to.

A chance to revisit childhood memories

Stefanie Stavrakas and her family were one of scholarship families and were particularly enthusiastic about attending, even more so because of her family’s connection to Camp Angelos, the camp’s location.

“As a child between 8-10 years, I would go with my father and our family friend to the property now known as Camp Angelos. I spent many weekends exploring! I forged many hiking trails – some of which, I noticed, are still in use.”

Stefanie and her husband, Vasili, are both federal employees working in the Natural Resources Conservation Service and the US Fish and Wildlife Service, and were furloughed during the recent government shutdown. Coming up with funds to cover basic living costs for six weeks was a challenge but they did not want their two children, Olivia and Demetrios, to miss out on Family Fish Camp because of this. Both their children are in scouts, Girl Scouts and Cub Scouts, and outdoor activities and stewardship represent core aspects of the scout values. A few of Olivia’s fellow Girl Scouts were attending the camp – yet another reason that Family Fish Camp felt like an important opportunity for the Stavrakas family. After hearing their story, ANWS felt they were truly deserving as scholarship recipients.

The Stavrakas family took home a few fish and even more new memories from Family Fish Camp. Photo Credit: Morgan Parks/NWF Staff

During the event, Stefanie shared stories from her experience as a young child spending time at Camp Angelos. After learning about the salmon life cycle from her father, she would go down to the banks of the Sandy River and watch in awe as hundreds of spawning salmon completed their hundred-mile journey home. Her father also shared his knowledge of fishing with her and Stefanie soon became familiar with the rods, reels, and other equipment needed to score a catch. These sweet memories, along with a love of native wildlife, have been passed along to her children, completing a cycle, much like the one she learned about from her father.

Passing the torch, from mother to daughter

Olivia happily displays her catch from the trout pond. Photo Credit: Morgan Parks/NWF Staff

Olivia, age 11, along with her mother, joined the 44 other women and girls in celebrating International Women’s Day at Family Fish Camp. Angling, among many other outdoor sports, can often be dominated by men leaving little access available for women and girls to feel welcome. However, all the women and girls attending this event grabbed their rods and reels without hesitation and happily hooked their own fish.

“To me,” Olivia shared, “being a girl and a part of the angling community means that I don’t have to be good at fishing, I don’t need to be a different gender or race, but it does mean to me that I can have lots of fun helping my family catch food in an inspiring, creative, and amusing way, and all it takes is guidance, my focus, and lots and lots of patience!”

Join us next year at Family Fish Camp!

Andrew and Aspen proudly sport their Ranger Rick gear. Photo Credit: Patrice Richards

While Family Fish Camp provided a space to practice casting and hooking, many of the families attending reeled in new friendships as well. Aspen and Andrew, two of our youngest attendees, forged a fast friendship that lasted beyond the weekend.

The NW Steelheaders hope that Family Fish Camp continues to make fishing available to all folks, no matter their background or experience, just like Olivia said. If you and your family or someone you know would like to attend or sponsor a future Family Fish Camp, learn more.

Learn more!