Pilot Staff Writer
The noise level may have been high enough to scare off every bear, deer and coyote for a 10-mile radius, but trees can’t run and the fish were kept captive in the pond at Arizona Beach State Park long enough for the third graders from Kalmiopsis Elementary School to catch a few.
Early Wednesday morning, third graders from Dawn Bennett’s and Ken Olsen’s classrooms made their way to the pond to partake in Reel Fish Day, an angler education class offered by the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife (ODFW), Oregon Parks and Recreation (OPRD) and the South Coast Watershed Council (SCWC), in conjuction with the Oregon South Coast Fishermen (OSCF) and the Curry Anadromous Fishermen (CAF).
After splitting into groups, the classes participated in five distinct events: live fishing, casting, hook baiting and knot tying, a nature hike and tree planting.
The students planted more than 60 thimbleberry plants and young cedar trees along Myrtle Creek, according to SCWC employee Statia Ryder.
“They did a great job,” Ryder said. “They got a lot plants put in, and that will help to keep the creek and surrounding area healthy.”
OPRD ranger Greg Ryder took each of the groups on an extended nature hike to show them the confluence of Myrtle and Mussel creeks and discuss the life cycle of salmon and steelhead.
“We think it is important for these kids to understand how their choices can affect the life cycle of these fish,” he said. “We show them pictures of dirty water and trash and ask them if they would want to live in that. Then, we show them clean water and let them know how important their decision to take care of the environment is.
The students also had the opportunity to learn how to tie and bait hooks and how to cast before heading over to the live fishing exercise on the banks of Arizona Pond.
The combined classes caught 82 fish according to ODFW STEP biologist John Weber.
Olsen’s class caught 51 of those fish, while Bennett’s class caught the remaining 31.
According to volunteer Alec Darger, Lexi Schofield caught the biggest fish of the day.
“That is a hog,” Darger said as Schofield reeled in her monster rainbow trout. “I’ve been fishing a long time and I know a hog when I see it.”
Darger is a freshman at Brookings-Harbor High School and was asked by Olsen to help out with the event because he has been fishing most of his life.
Each of the students that chose to keep their fish took them to a fish cleaning station where they were allowed to watch the fish being cleaned and were instructed in how to store the fish until they got home and could cook them to complete the experience.
The event was open to all local-area third grade classes with Port Orford participating Monday, Gold Beach participating Tuesday and the four Brookings-Harbor third grade classes taking Wednesday and Thursday.
According to Weber, the event served more than 200 students and wouldn’t have been possible without the assistance of both the CAF and the OSCF volunteers who donated their time to help out.
“ODFW stocks the pond,” he said, “but without the volunteers putting in so many hours this event wouldn’t happen.”
As the students boarded the bus and the sound levels around the pond normalized, the local fauna began cautiously creeping out of their hiding places and Statia boarded the bus for a last word with the students.
“This is your park,” she said. “Please come back and visit. Water your plants and trees and enjoy the area.
“Thank you for putting your time and energy into this place, I know all of the fish and birds and animals will enjoy and benefit from your effort.”