Hooked on Fishing

Hooked on Fishing


To kick off National Fishing Week, the city of Chico will be welcoming kids to its 30th annual FREE “Hooked on Fishing, not on Drugs”** event. It is one of the largest single-day children’s fishing events in the entire United States!
Kids 15 and under are invited to come to Horseshoe Lake in Upper Bidwell Park from 7:00 AM to Noon on Saturday, May 20, for a chance at the 8,000 pounds of channel catfish that will be planted for the event. Admission is FREE, along with all tackle, bait, and instruction [limit 1 fish per child]. Kids can even have their catfish cleaned for free.
Since this is a “kids only” lake, no fishing license is required for anglers under 16. Expert local anglers will be on hand as coaches. There will be a separate “Huck Finn Pond” for the youngest anglers, age 1 to 5. There will be plenty of rods and reels available to use free, but all are encouraged to bring their own. Bring your favorite “secret” catfish bait, but please, no lead sinkers at Horseshoe Lake.
In the “Huck Finn’s Pond” area, the littlest anglers age 1 to 5 will find that the fish are always biting. Toddlers, and even kids in strollers, fish in water-filled livestock troughs with pre-hooked catfish that are the answer to short attention spans. Over 350 little ones left the kiddie pool area last year with a nice catfish and numerous memories.
Typical of last year’s crop of young anglers, was little 4-year old Madelyn Aguire of Chico, who was walking down toward the lake with her dad, Matt, and a positive attitude. “I never caught a fish so far, but if I catch a fish I will get to keep the fish,” grinned Madelyn. Also thrilled was 6-year old Teal Hamman of Chico, who was awarded a new Shakespeare rod and reel for releasing a bass. “I caught a catfish and a bass; I like catching fish and reeling them in,” no doubt most of the kids would agree.
A special program run by the Chico Bass Club and Shakespeare Fishing Tackle awards a new rod and reel combo to any child who catches and releases one of the lake’s resident bass, carp, bullheads, or herps. Last year saw a total of 10 Shakespeare combos awarded; six for releasing a bass, one for a carp, two for wild goldfish, and one for a turtle.
The 500 loaner rods are rigged up by the Chico Bass Club and Paradise Bass Club. The loaner tackle includes special Danielson “Enviro-Quest Steel” sinkers, as required by lake regulations. Some 5,000 live nightcrawlers are donated by Oro Dam Bait, and the Chico Rod and Gun Club generously allows the use of their on-site facilities.
A little more than half of the 8,000 pounds of catfish stocked for the event are harvested during the event most years, and the remainder will provide an opportunity for kids to fish in this easy to get to lake for the rest of the summer. The yeoman task of cleaning the thousand-plus catfish brought in, falls to the Chico Rotary Clubs. A perennially popular aquarium display of the fish, herpetological, and invertebrate life of the lake is run by the Chico Area Flyfishers.
The big stocking of catfish carries a $25,000 invoice, so financial sponsors are vital. Key donors last year included: Captain Rollo’s Kids, California Inland Fisheries Foundation, Chico Rotary Clubs, Chico Area Flyfishers, Bryan V. Kerchal Memorial, Butte County Fish and Game Commission, Thomas Manufacturing, Franklin Construction, and Shakespeare Fishing Tackle.
Event chairman [and co-founder], Pete Giampaoli, started the event some 30 years ago with a simple mission: “Our goal is for every child to have the opportunity to catch a fish, and hopefully give them an alternative to the many negative influences that are all around them. Fishing is a sport that anyone can participate in for their entire life. I would also really like to thank all of our great volunteers and those who contributed that have helped make this event possible for 30 years.”

By Steve Carson

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