Each year ODFW (Oregon Department of Fisheries and Wildlife) puts on a handful of free family fishing events! You show up with your awesome family with all the snack or literally nothing. They hook (hehehe) your kids up with a fishing pole, bait and a net to catch your fish from the freshly stocked pond! Not to mention the even more amazing volunteers ready to help you catch and clean your fish! All of this is a FREE (if you haven't caught on by now) family and incredibly kid friendly event. Every year. Because they're amazing.
This event is not only extremely organized but I have never seen so many passionate people in one place ready to make sure every single kiddo and person for that matter has a day of fun. We arrived early since it can get a bit busy and sometimes crowded. Don't worry, there are PLENTY of fish to go around. Every year we're greeted by someone with a huge smile who always excitedly asks the kids if they're ready to become professional fisherman. Once we signed in we go over to the fishing pole station where a volunteer helped our oldest pick out his fishing pole and gave him a quick lesson about it. Next up was the bait station which was our almost 2 year olds favorite because WORMS! He would have happily carried off their entire supply if we let him. When we got our stuff put down a friendly volunteer asked if we needed anything and gave us a casting lesson...to which I failed at for awhile at no fault of his haha
Some things came up with the RV so Cody had to take care of them leaving me solo with both kiddos for the day. The moment I got a good cast in, the little decided to revolt and begin to wander with epic speed and the attention span of a nat. While trying to coral his wildness and help our oldest I realized it may be an uphill solo battle. Then a super nice volunteer named Caleb came to ask if we needed help casting again since our oldest had decided reeling in the line was funner than just sitting there. Seriously you guys their volunteers are amazing. He cast it out while I kept the tiny from jumping in the pond. Once snacks came out things settled down long enough for me to help our oldest feel the line while he anxiously sat.
Finally we caught our first fish! Excited was an understatement. For him and his little brother who suddenly realized a live fish was about to be within reach. I'm pretty sure he caught one of the most lively fish since it jumped back and forth over the lines of the people on both sides on us. Caleb called it quit the wild fish to which our oldest has decided is the coolest and only way to tell his story 7,000 times already today. The volunteers helped us net it, get the hook out, clean it (thank you, for real I have no idea how to properly do that) and bag it. I have yet to see my son walk with a prouder strut than in that moment. You'd think he had just killed a lion with his bare hands.
Once that fish was caught we were back at it. Another volunteer helped cast out the line since I was trying to keep the toddlers snacks in his hands and out of the pond. After a little while we decided to try to have our almost 2 year old help hold the pole. At the last second of his attention we caught another fish! This was super special since they got to reel it in together. Our oldest didn't really want to touch the fish while our littlest was beside himself with excitement and I was praying he just wouldn't try to lick it. Once again the volunteers did just about everything so all the kids had to worry about was fishing and having fun.
The kids got to see their uncle who was volunteering alongside their auntie which was really sweet because they had some special moments bonding while fishing. They hoped to catch a third fish but nap time came quicker than we were able to catch another fish so we headed home after a fun filled day and a bag of our own fishies caught with some ice for the drive. The kids had so much fun they didn't even make it out of the parking lot before falling asleep.
That night while eating dinner our oldest promptly asked our toddler if he liked his dinner, if it was good, if he liked eating fish and a million other questions to which he repedidly responded with "yup, I caught that fish you're eating!"
There are a couple more free family fishing days left! I would HIGHLY recommend going to one of them. You don't need experience or equipment or much of anything. You just show up with excitement and the volunteers take care of the rest! Plus you get to keep your fish and enjoy them for dinner while your kids boast with pride! I mean how fun is that! One thing I really loved was just the joy that every single employee or volunteer had. They were beyond excited to celebrate every fish that was caught and made all of the kids feel like absolute rockstars. You always knew there was a fish caught because not only would the family be cheering but the kids would be beaming and all the volunteers would be congratulating them! An amazing woman named (who I will PROUDLY claim as my wonderful sister) Emma organized the event and it was absolutely top notch. We got to see her for just a bit because she was always making sure that not only everything was running smoothly, but that all of the volunteers were well taken care of and that every kid was having the most fun they could have. Aside from the volunteers who had stations I don't think I saw one stay in the same place for more than 10 minutes because they were helping everyone who attended. This event is definitely a highlight to our year every year!
If you go to the Free Family Fishing Day section of ODFW's website you can click on your area to see the list of dates and locations. Check it out!