Monday, August 12, 2013

A Fishing Day for All: The Sequel

Dana Perez, USFWS Chief of Diversity & Civil Rights, assists Armond in
catching his first fish! (one of the largest of the day!)

Photo Credit: Meghan Kearney/USFWS
About a year ago, we shared the story of a newly installed accessible fishing platform at Little White Salmon National Fish Hatchery. We spent the day with a group from United Cerebral Palsy of Oregon & Southwest Washington out on the dock, fishing poles cast into the lake, hoping for a bite. It might have been the season, the time of day, or the noisy excitement echoing from the shore that kept the fish away, but our catches were few and far between. This didn’t seem to bother the happy crowd on the lake by any means, some who had never fished before and were so happy to just be out there. I still couldn’t help but wonder about the amount of joy I would have witnessed if the satisfaction of catching a fish was thrown into the mix. I didn’t know then that a year into my future I would find myself again fishing with this amazing crew, but this time with almost too many fish to handle!

Public Affairs Specialist, Amanda, sharing the moment.
Photo credit: Meghan Kearney/USFWS
New and old faces
I found myself this past week at Bonneville Hatchery, along the Columbia River in Oregon awaiting the arrival of my old pals. Through a partnership with CAST/Catch a Special Thrill Foundation, Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife, United Cerebral Palsy of Oregon & Southwest Washington, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, and area Kiwanis chapters, we were able to provide a group of almost 40 visitors and their families fishing poles, tackle boxes, a delicious outdoor lunch, and of course, a wonderful day of fishing. Many of the faces I recognized from the year before, and many faces were new, and all were smiling.

USFWS Microbiologist, Matt, checking out the sturgeon viewing pond
with David.

Photo credit: Meghan Kearney/USFWS
Fishing buddies
After grabbing their tackle boxes and poles, our eager visitors were each matched up with a fishing buddy before making their way to the pond. Within less than ten minutes, I heard cheers from the far side of the dock. I looked over and saw the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service, Pacific Region Deputy Director, Richard Hannan and Robert laughing and cheering joyously as they reeled in what appeared to be a bite. Sure enough, it was, and I realized right there that my suspicions had been confirmed. Watching the excitement not only on Robert’s face, but the faces of every volunteer and friend around the lake, was truly unlike anything I have before experienced. 

Robert catches his first fish of the day, an inspiring moment.
Video credit: Meghan Kearney/USFWS

Volunteers and visitors share in the joys of fishing!
Photo credit: Meghan Kearney/USFWS
Nature’s true joy
After the first catch, one after another was to follow, and soon enough the only things to be seen around the hatchery were smiles (well, and bags of prized fish). What could really be seen in this day was the true joy that nature brings to all of us. Reflecting on the fishless, but smiling faces from last year, and seeing them back for another go says so much about how important connections with nature truly are. It’s not always about catching the biggest fish; sometimes it’s just about having the opportunity to get out there.

For our full set of photos from the event be sure to check out our Facebook album.
Also check out more great blogs on the event from USFWS Pacific Region and the Columbia River Fisheries Program Office!