Reeling in some fishing derby fun

Special needs students fish Lacamas Lake

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Once youngsters reeled in their catch, Moose Lodge volunteers helped snatch the fish from the water, remove the hook, then clean it.

The smiles were absolutely contagious during the annual Camas Moose Lodge fishing derby Friday morning.

Boys and girls tossed their lines in the calm waters of Lacamas Lake to try their hands at catching at lease one fish. With 4,000 of the little wiggly swimmers sloshing around beneath the surface of a small netted-off area next to the Lodge’s docks, it didn’t take long for the youngsters to begin reeling rainbow and brown trout — one after another. That’s when the smiles, laughter and excitement really started.

This outing was a special, eagerly anticipated occasion for the nearly 30 students who are all part of the Life Skills programs at Liberty Middle School and Camas High School, and Liberty’s TLC program. The curriculum is designed for students with a variety of disabilities, from autism and Down syndrome to more mild health impairments.

“They talk about going fishing all year,” said Misty Youngblood, a Life Skills teacher at Liberty. “It’s good for the socialization. They have fun, it’s a challenge, and it’s a culmination of the whole year — the skills that we practice.”

The annual event appears to be as much fun for the members of the Moose Lodge, as it is for the students who participate.

“The lodge is active in a lot of community service projects, and this fits right in with that,” said Bob Bielman, current Camas Moose Lodge governor.

According to Joe Lawson, an expert fisherman and volunteer with the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife, the trout were donated by the Evergreen Hatchery and brought to the Moose Lodge site on Tuesday. In addition to lending his collection of fishing poles for the students to use at the event, Lawson also put the netting together and camped out at the site for three nights, to make sure people did not fish there before the kids had first crack at it on Friday.

All of the work, he said, was well worth the effort.

“It’s a lot of cold and pain to do it, but it’s all worth it to see the kids smile.”