News

Hooked on Fishing works for kids

By MARGO HORNER

The Mirror

Steel Lake Park brimmed with enthusiastic shouts, laughter and a lake full of trout on Saturday for the city's annual Hooked on Fishing event for kids.

It was easy fishing for the kids, who cast lines into a netted-off area near the dock that was packed with nearly 2,000 trout. Most children caught their limit of two fish within moments.

Volunteers helped net the fish and placed them in plastic bags. The children beamed, proudly holding their bags of fish. Some kids screamed and dropped their bags as the fish flopped around inside.

Christina Nguyen, 9, wasn't alarmed by her fish flopping around inside the bag. She's attended similar events in Everett and caught fish before, she said.

Nguyen said she was a little scared of falling off the dock, but a pair of lifeguards kept close watch.

Despite the pouring rain, 325 children showed up to fish for the event. Most bundled up in rain gear.

Morgan Mooney, 4, was so delighted by her fish that she didn't even notice her dripping wet hair. She planned to eat her fish later that day, she said.

At the conclusion of the event, children had caught a total of about 650 fish. More than 1,000 remaining fish were released into Steel Lake.

"There'll be some good fishing around here for the next week or so," said Suzanne Humphrey of Trout Unlimited's South King County chapter.

Trout Unlimited has worked with the city to sponsor the fishing event annually for 20 years.

The goal is to teach children to care about the environment, Humphrey said.

Dennis Clark, a county employee who educates the public about the environment, set up a stand at Steel Lake on Saturday. He lectured children and parents about healthy streams.

"Our goal is to get people when they're really excited about something," Clark said. "It's a teachable moment."

Clark's lecture focused on keeping streams healthy so fish can survive. If people like to fish, Clark said, they should work to improve the environment so fish will be plentiful. The kids listened intently.

"The only places that have fish are the places you take good care of, where you have good water quality," Clark told the children. "Fish, to survive, need clean water."

Using three displays and pouring "rain" from a watering can, he showed the children how a healthy forest produces clean streams. A cleared forest, with bare land, produces dirty streams.

To demonstrate the effect urbanization has on streams, Clark pointed to a model town coated in Kool-Aid. The Kool-Aid symbolized pollutants like fertilizer, car oil and dog poop, Clark said. The water running off the city streets into the stream was thick red.

"If you were a fish, would you want to swim in there?" Clark asked the children.

He passed out fliers describing simple steps children can take to help the environment. "Don't litter" topped the list.

"This is also a way of educating the parents too," Clark said. "We all can do something to improve water quality."

Contact Margo Horner: mhorner@fedwaymirror.com or (253) 925-5565.

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