Free fishing derby draws 400

More than 400 children under the age of 19 took advantage of Saturday’s free fishing day at Foster Dam.

Organizers feared that rainy weather early on would keep some youths home, but it made for good fishing.

Young anglers managed to catch three and four fish each though only one reached the limit of five fish, volunteer Ben Withrow said.

For the third year, the youngest children were invited down to the South Santiam Fish Hatchery where they dipped their cane poles right into the hatchery pools.

Organizers raffled off a wood carving of a fish, a hand-made rod from Roger Arnold and a guided fishing tour by the Northwest Steelheaders.

“It was raining to start with,” Withrow said. “I was expecting that to slow down the amount of kids.”

It didn’t, he said. The wind was calm and the lake like a sheet of glass.

When it’s windy, “that’s when we tangle up bobbers and lines,” Withrow said.

The cool weather drew the fish to the surface, making it a nice year for the annual event, Withrow said. Last year, children had trouble catching fish. “The weather was perfect for catching.”

The annual event is sponsored by a variety of agencies and businesses, including the Boys and Girls Club, the Steelheaders and Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife.

“It took the work of volunteers from all over to pull this off as smooth as it goes off,” Withrow said. He extended his thanks to the volunteers. “We’ve got it so well organized, everything just falls together.”

Withrow has been organizing the event since 1989 when it was just eight children.

Awards went to the following children:

– 0-6: Jade Smith caught the biggest fish of the day at .8 lbs. Molley Dadey caught the first fish, 9:01 a.m. Enrique “Buddy,” was first in casting. Nick Ryan was second.

– 7-9: Hillary McCartin, Scott Jones and Ashley McManus all tied for biggest fish at .71 lbs. Arianna Garcia caught the first fish at 9:03 a.m. Travis Beaver was the first and only one overall to catch his limit at 11:56 a.m. Conan Celeste was first in casting. Lexi MacCoone Cummings was second.

– 10-12: Joshua Mellander caught the biggest fish at .71 lbs. Ryan Milligan caught the first fish at 9:02 a.m. Travis Sells was first in casting. Steven Parker was second.

– 13-19: Nathan Raymond and Alma Jones tied for biggest fish at .55 lbs. Travis Lorimer caught the first fish. John Seibert was first in casting. Andrew Zolman was second.