Hooked on Family Fishing: Casting Through Environmental Barriers

It is lightly drizzling as I pull into the parking lot at Glenn Otto Park in Troutdale, Oregon. The inaugural Hooked on Family Fishing Day hosted by the Association of Northwest Steelheaders (ANWS) has finally arrived. Banners are hung, 50 rainbow trout are happily swimming in their portable pond, and our 12 volunteers are anxiously waiting at their activity stations. 

After four months of planning, I sit down at the check-in table, take a deep breath, and reflect on the “what if” scenarios that have flashed through my head leading up to this day: “How many families would show up? What would the weather be like? Do we have all of our supplies?”. However, today was finally the day where everything would come together and it was time to welcome our 8 families and 25 participants. 

A New Angle

Confluence AmeriCorps Member, Kristina Peterson, posing with her rainbow trout. Credit: Mark Peterson / Event Volunteer.

As a Confluence Environmental Center AmeriCorps Member—working for the National Wildlife Federation and their Oregon state affiliate, ANWS—I get to engage with Portland-Metro communities through our Fish Eggs to Fry and Garden for Wildlife programs. In a typical year, I would also organize the annual Family Fish Camp—an overnight 3-day event dedicated to angling education. Unfortunately this year, the COVID-19 pandemic made the annual event unrealistic. In a year filled with quarantine and virtual learning, it was especially important to me to provide a memorable outdoor experience for families. With the support of ANWS staff, Hooked on Family Fishing Day was born…

Patrice, Aspen, and Rainbow revealing their fish prints. Credit: Morgan Parks / NWF Staff.

On the morning of Saturday, April 24th, 2021, families eagerly gathered into small rotational groups for morning activities. Like a bee buzzing to new flowers, I made my way through each station as well: 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, enjoyed their excitement of creating a fish print that could be taken home, and admired the inquisitive minds learning how to tie that perfect knot. 

 Event participant, Alix, holding the rainbow trout. Credit: Kristina Peterson.

The day was flying by as we moved into the afternoon activities. In honor of Earth Week, 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 compared to the excitement of the trout pond!

I stand back with camera in hand waiting in anticipation for a trout to bite. When I hear a participant shout, “I caught one, I caught one!” my heart races as I rush over to get the perfect picture.

At the end of a long fun-filled day, participants were finally ready to go home.

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 new gear and goods, 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. A fin-tastic finish to our first ever 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

ANWS is the state affiliate of the National Wildlife Federation in Oregon and is one of the oldest and most cherished conservation and sport fishing advocacy organizations in the Pacific Northwest. They are anglers dedicated to enhancing and protecting fisheries and their habitats for today and tomorrow.

This event was made possible by our partners, 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, Friends and Family, and National Wildlife Federation staff.

Video Credit: Kristina Peterson

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.

Watch for future events.