Free rods, jumbo trout get youths hooked on fishing

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For many years, Walla Walla resident Bill Selby and a small group of friends have made a hobby of collecting fishing rods and reels they refurbish and assemble.

Inspired years ago after seeing an ambitious young angler trying his luck equipped with only a stick and a short piece of fishing line, Bill has made it a mission to provide local kids with the basic fishing tackle they need to get outside and cast their hook in search of trout and other species in nearby lakes and streams.

For Bill, it’s always a special treat to watch aspiring anglers choose what for many is their first very own fishing rod and to witness the thrill they experience as they reel in their first fish.

During this year’s recent Kids Fishing Day at Bennington Lake, 60 refurbished rod and reel sets were made available to young would-be anglers who were among the 50 local boys and girls that registered for the event.

Held each year during Free Fishing Weekend in early June, this popular event at Bennington Lake is cosponsored by Tri-State Steelheaders, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and the U.S. Forest Service.

To help ensure there’s a supply of hungry trout available for eager anglers, in 2009 Tri-State Steelheaders entered into an agreement with the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife wherein the local nonprofit fisheries enhancement group covers the cost of additional fish food that allows WDFW’s Tucannon and Lyons Ferry hatcheries to raise several thousand “Jumbo Trout” for release in Bennington Lake and other Southeast Washington lakes and ponds.

In addition to the annual event at Bennington Lake, an equally fun Kids Fishing Derby is sponsored each year in July at Jubilee Lake in Oregon by the U.S. Forest Service, the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife and Tri-State Steelheaders.

Information about this year’s event at Jubilee Lake can be obtained by contacting Katy Gray at 541-278-3849 or by email at kathrynlgray@fs.fed.us.

Unfortunately, Bill recently noted that his team of friends and supporters who have scoured local yard sales and thrift stores for used rods and reels is steadily dwindling and it’s becoming increasingly difficult to replenish their supply.

A renewed supply of donated fishing gear is needed to continue providing this outstanding community service to our young people.

Anyone wishing to donate old fishing rods and reels may contact Bill Selby directly at 509-529-9266 or Tri-State Steelheaders at 509-529-3543 or by email at tssfish@tristatesteelheaders.com.

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