At Winthrop National Fish Hatchery's Kids Fishing Day event in 2022, kids often caught fish so big, they could barely lift them. After two years of Covid that closed public events, the trout had gotten enormous!
These trout came from Entiat National Fish Hatchery, where they had become an attractant to American bears. The bears liked to chew up the irrigation system in between snacking on fish; so hatchery manager Craig Chisam was glad to pass them along to Winthrop's hatchery instead. Thanks to help from Yakama Nation Fisheries along with staff from both hatcheries, the trout were delivered to the pond in time for the event. 477 people arrived, eager to see what they could catch.
And eager they were! In the first 30 minutes after the gate was opened, 220 people checked in to pick up passports for kids age 14 and under. Children had to get at least 5 stamps in their passports before they could go fishing.
Activity stations were scattered across the grassy lawns between buildings, ponds, and raceways, with community volunteers and hatchery staff welcoming kids under shady tents. The Bureau of Reclamation showed them how streams and rivers work by using a water table. Methow Recycles handed out re-usable water bottles with the logo for the 150th anniversary of the National Fish Hatchery System imprinted on them.
Indigenous storyteller Dayton Edmonds shared tales with visitors. Kids could try their hand at fly-casting, and many took home handmade flies. Chief Joseph Dam's Theresa Poulton
taught boating safety lessons, with the Methow Beaver Project demonstrated how humans can make dams for habitat restoration projects that borrow from what beavers do naturally. Staff from Trout Unlimited and Okanogan Conservation District wowed folks with an up-close look at aquatic life. From the Fisheries and Aquatic Conservation's brand-new event trailer, staff supplied handsome bandanas for kids to color with fabric crayons, and set up a knot-tying station for practice fastening line to hook.
And folks from Methow Valley Fly Fishers, Colville Confederated Tribes, and other community volunteers came to help kids do what they most wanted: catch a fish!
Additional, smaller trout were placed in the pond with tags, too. Tagged fish earned kids prizes, like new fishing rods. Anyone who caught a fish could take it to the cleaning station, where volunteers gutted and scaled the trout and put them into bags to take home. Many families had a fine meal of trout for dinner-- and some had plenty left for later!
It was a memorable event on a fine, sunny day. Beautiful banners decorated the site and the volunteers and staff sported t-shirts featuring local children's art, thanks to the Methow Arts Alliance. Some new fans of fishing will test out their new rods and enthusiasm on the rivers and lakes later this summer. That's what makes it all worthwhile!