Where there are fish, there are stories

Volunteers were hoping to give kids the time of their lives at Catch a Special Thrill, or CAST for Kids, a one-day fishing event on Sunday at Q’emiln Park.

“It’s just something fun for the kids,” said Michael Quinn, Marine Corps Commander for Pappy Boyington. “I mean you look at the excitement. They can’t do things like that, and that’s what we’re here for.”

The league was the sponsor of this year’s fishing trip, which brings together children with disabilities or special needs and boat volunteers. The nonprofit CAST provides the children with a fishing rod, life jacket, tackle box and T-shirt. Then the boat owners and fishermen take them out on the water for a catch of fish and some stories.

“Last year, I got the biggest salad!” Tracy Sams said.

Tracey, 10, suffers from arthrogryposis, which limits the use of her arms and legs. She uses her chin and mouth to reel in the line. Last year, she brought her motorized wheelchair on the pontoon boat, but she didn’t need it this year. She was hoping to catch a fish, like her lucky brother, Tanner Sams, 13.

“Last year, I caught two monster fish!” He said.

The monster fish has a specific size, and Tanner drew it on his friend’s arm by measuring it from just past his fingertips to past his elbow.

This year, Tanner caught three fish by 9 a.m., one of them a monster fish, with Lakeland Middle School principal and volunteer Harrison Burch.

This was the third annual CAST event in North Idaho, and the Samses’ third year participating.

Tanner’s story is that he catches a fish every year, and Burch, who fishes with Tanner every year, tells the same fish tales.

To prove it, the couple brought a monster fish to the pier to show off and wave it around for everyone to see, while Tanner happily shouted to his sister.

“You develop those relationships,” Quinn said. “And that’s what’s really good about a lot of this, especially for a lot of these kids. They look forward to it every year.”

Tanner and Tracy love the opportunity they wouldn’t normally get. Their mother, Mary Sams, is allergic to fish and cannot touch them.

Ariana Nash, 15, and her sister Sophia Nash, 8, lit up as they talked about the fun time they had.

“She got two trout, and I got eight different types of catfish,” Ariana said, pointing at her sister. “I was going to go and cast one of the bigger catfish. Because it was like a 10- or 15-pound catfish.

Even if people didn’t catch anything, everyone had something to celebrate. Children had to drive boats or bait hooks, and volunteers celebrated with each child as they caught a fish.

Boaters announced each catch over the radio to organizers on shore. They counted the fish and announced it over the loudspeaker.

When everyone returned to the beach for lunch, they received a plaque with their picture and a prize, including a prize for the biggest salad.

“That’s what it’s about,” Quinn said. “It’s developing those memories and those fun times. Because they have a lot of other things that don’t bring as much fun.

Quinn handed out refreshments on the beach and told fish tales as the children fished with Senior League Deputy Captain Dennis Dodd.

“Last year, Dennis had a girl on his boat,” Quinn said. “He would throw it out there and hit it, and it would start pulling it out. As soon as she saw the fish, she let go of the pole. He lost three poles in the river there.”

But not everything is lost or washed away by the river.

“Once they all arrive, you’ll hear some great stories as they walk around about what happened there,” Quinn said. “It’s something that will always be special. They will always remember it fondly and that’s the key.”



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