Smiles of children, uncommon volunteerism power success of Klineline Pond Fishing Derby

Hundreds of children flock to Klineline Pond to try their hand at catching 14,000 hatchery fish in annual Clark County tradition

VANCOUVER — “I got a fish!” shouted 9-year-old Kaitlyn Mendez as she stood on the shore of Klineline Pond with hundreds of equally excited children and parents Saturday morning.

The expression of youthful exhilaration was repeated again and again throughout the day at Salmon Creek Park in Vancouver as the Klineline Kids Fishing Derby returned to the delight of participants, volunteers and sponsors alike Friday and Saturday.

Children, adults and volunteers stand along the beach at Klineline Pond in Salmon Creek Park Saturday morning for the Klineline Kids Fishing Derby. Photo by Mike Schultz
Children, adults and volunteers stand along the beach at Klineline Pond in Salmon Creek Park Saturday morning for the Klineline Kids Fishing Derby. Photo by Mike Schultz

 

Jason and Mai’ana Candaso, of Vancouver, pose with the young girl’s catch at the Klineline Kids Fishing Derby Saturday morning. Photo by Mike Schultz
Jason and Mai’ana Candaso, of Vancouver, pose with the young girl’s catch at the Klineline Kids Fishing Derby Saturday morning. Photo by Mike Schultz

Those who were undeterred by the seasonally cold and drizzly weather were treated to an exciting morning and afternoon filled with entertainment and food provided by a host of vendors. The offerings ranged from standard fare such as hot dogs and hamburgers to the opportunity to fire arrows on a miniature archery range.

 


About Klineline Pond Fishing

Those interested in supporting the efforts of the Klineline Pond Fishing nonprofit, which extend well beyond the two-day derby, are asked to visit www.klineline-kf.org or call (360) 818-4897. Donations can be sent to P.O. Box 873875, Vancouver, 98687.

Board meetings are held at 6 p.m. the first Monday of each month at Chuck’s Produce, 2302 NE 117th St., Vancouver, in the community meeting room. All are welcome to attend. Meetings generally last an hour to an hour-and-a-half. Meetings are consistent October through June with a break during summer months, according to the Klineline Pond Fishing website.


Catching a fish, of course, was at the top of nearly everyone’s agenda, and after more than 14,000 hatchery salmon — including a relative few whoppers weighing 5 to 10 pounds — were deposited into netted areas of the pond Thursday, there were plenty of opportunities to succeed.

“I personally don’t know how to fish, so if someone wants to teach my daughter to fish, I think that’s great,” said Jessica Mendez, Kaitlyn’s mother, right before her daughter ran off toward the shore and made another cast.

Talk to enough people at Klineline Pond during the kids fishing derby, and you’re likely to hear that same story again and again from thankful parents enthralled with the affordable opportunity to take their children on an adventure in their own backyard.

On Saturday, as hungry osprey and bald eagles soared overhead, occasionally splashing into the water in pursuit of an easy meal and in one case getting tangled up in fishing line, hundreds of children dotted the beach, squealing with pride and delight each time a salmon bit down on a hook.

At their disposal were booths where often inexperienced parents and guardians could seek advice or equipment.

A man helps a young angler bring in a fish during the Klineline Kids Fishing Derby at Salmon Creek Park in Vancouver Saturday. Photo by Mike Schultz
A man helps a young angler bring in a fish during the Klineline Kids Fishing Derby at Salmon Creek Park in Vancouver Saturday. Photo by Mike Schultz

“This is his first time fishing and we’re wondering if you have any pointers,” one mother said as she approached a booth manned by Dan Vossen, who was wearing an orange vest and had all manner of bait, lures and fishing poles within his reach.

After coyly reaching into his vest and providing the boy with scented bait he insisted would better ensure success at the other end of the pole, he placed one hand to his face indicating he was about to tell a secret while pointing the other toward the other end of the beach.

“Go that way,” he whispered intensely, sending the boy and his mother toward the section of the pond where the fish had been biting.

Children, adults and volunteers stand along the beach at Klineline Pond in Salmon Creek Park Saturday morning for the Klineline Kids Fishing Derby. Photo by Mike Schultz
Children, adults and volunteers stand along the beach at Klineline Pond in Salmon Creek Park Saturday morning for the Klineline Kids Fishing Derby. Photo by Mike Schultz
A volunteer wearing an orange vest helps a young angler after this fish was caught Saturday morning at the Klineline Kids Fishing Derby. Photo by Mike Schultz
A volunteer wearing an orange vest helps a young angler after this fish was caught Saturday morning at the Klineline Kids Fishing Derby. Photo by Mike Schultz

“I’m in my element,” Vossen said during a rare break at the booth, which a sign behind him identified as the All Veterans Rod and Tackle Station. “I’m helping kids catch fish. I’m helping better my community.”

The orange vests donned by Vossen and dozens of others embedded with the young anglers up and down the shoreline were, as one would expect, meant to make them stand out for participants. When a boy or girl hooked a fish, these men and women would move in to offer assistance, whether it was unhooking the fish or pointing the fisher-in-training toward the registration, awards or fish-cleaning booths.

“Keep looking for the folks in the orange vests,” Vossen told another parent seeking advice as he continued to deal out equipment at a rapid pace.

They weren’t hard to spot, either.

Likewise, everywhere one looked Saturday, there were volunteers hustling throughout the park to make the annual extravaganza a success.

Children, adults and volunteers stand along the beach at Klineline Pond in Salmon Creek Park Saturday morning for the Klineline Kids Fishing Derby. Photo by Mike Schultz
Children, adults and volunteers stand along the beach at Klineline Pond in Salmon Creek Park Saturday morning for the Klineline Kids Fishing Derby. Photo by Mike Schultz

Klineline Kids Fishing, a nonprofit organization, represents the heart of the entire effort, but its mission of providing every child with the thrill of landing a fish and positively impacting their lives through outdoors experiences wouldn’t be possible without an army of volunteers and an equally large buy-in from area businesses, organizations and government agencies.

That’s how the event not only continues to thrive, but keeps growing eight years after state funding dried up and threatened the existence of the derby, which has been held in one form or another for about three decades. Community-minded residents and businesses wouldn’t let the event die, though, and in 2012 the nonprofit served 2,400 children operating the derby as a nonprofit.

Last year, 3,500 children attended.

A bald eagle perched high above Klineline Pond Saturday was among dozens of birds looking to snatch a meal from the water after more than 14,000 hatchery fish were deposited into netted areas of the pond in preparation for the derby Thursday. Photo by Mike Schultz
A bald eagle perched high above Klineline Pond Saturday was among dozens of birds looking to snatch a meal from the water after more than 14,000 hatchery fish were deposited into netted areas of the pond in preparation for the derby Thursday. Photo by Mike Schultz

Allen Jaffe, 78, has been involved in fishing derbies at Klineline Pond for nearly 30 years.

As he stood at the center of the action in Salmon Creek Park Saturday, he said the two-day derby requires about $200,000, and all of that comes in the form of donations.

It’s a sum that pays for the colorful array of 5,000 rods and reels made available to participants, the prizes, the food and much, much more. Fishing clubs, community organizations, businesses and individuals fill in the gaps, providing the funding, services and support needed to create a carnival-like atmosphere on the shores of Klineline Pond each year.

So numerous are the sponsors and supporters, in fact, that Klineline Kids Fishing lists them alphabetically and breaks them into groups of about a dozen when thanking them through posts on Facebook once a week. There are simply too many supporters to thank in one serving and still do their contributions justice.

What drives the widespread and infectious positive response from folks like Jaffe?

“It’s a big enjoyment to see the kids faces, even the kids that didn’t catch anything,” he said.

Children, adults and volunteers stand along the beach at Klineline Pond in Salmon Creek Park Saturday morning for the Klineline Kids Fishing Derby. Photo by Mike Schultz
Children, adults and volunteers stand along the beach at Klineline Pond in Salmon Creek Park Saturday morning for the Klineline Kids Fishing Derby. Photo by Mike Schultz

The fulfillment that comes with providing a new and positive experience for a bright-eyed youngster was amplified on Friday, Jaffe said. The first day of the derby is set aside for individuals with special needs. Unlike the Saturday event, which is for kids ages 5 to 14, Friday fishing is open to people “5 to 100,” Jaffe said.

“Kids in wheelchairs, how often are they going to get to fish?” asked Jaffe, a former vice president of Klineline Kids Fishing.

On Friday, about 30 wheelchair-bound anglers, along with several hundred others with special needs, had that very opportunity.

For Jaffe, the blessing he and other volunteers help provide the children is returned tenfold each time a smile stretches across one of their faces after their line starts to wiggle with the force of a fish pulling at the other end.

The best part?

“Anyone who wants to help can be part of it at anytime,” Jaffe said.

 

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About The Author

Eric Schwartz arrives as a reporter at Clark County Today with nearly 15 years of experience as a journalist. He most recently served five years as editor of The Chronicle newspaper in Centralia. Prior to that, he was an assistant editor, reporter and intern at the newspaper. Schwartz graduated from Forks High School on the Olympic Peninsula before attending Centralia College and Eastern Washington University, where he was the editor-in-chief of the award-winning college newspaper, The Easterner, and received the Edmund J. Yarwood award as the top performer in his class. He covered sports through a fellowship at The Tri-City Herald before taking a full-time reporting job with The Chronicle in 2007. After three years as a reporter at The Chronicle, he traveled to Kalispell, MT, and worked as a crime, courts and emergency services reporter at The Daily Inter Lake, where he won two first-place awards for spot news coverage from the Montana Newspaper Publishers Association. In 2011, he returned to The Chronicle as the assistant editor before being promoted to editor in 2013. Under his leadership, The Chronicle was the recipient of several C.B. Blethen Memorial Awards for Distinguished Reporting, and the newspaper was twice given the General Excellence Award as the top performer in its category by the Society of Professional Journalists. Schwartz has also been the recipient of two C.B. Blethen Memorial Awards for his own reporting and has garnered additional individual awards from the Society of Professional Journalists. Most recently, he and his staff were honored with a Key Award from the Washington Coalition for Open Government for The Chronicle’s editorials and news coverage focused on transparency in county government.

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