“I drove by this lake, and it was called the black lagoon then; it didn’t look like this. I drove by it every day and thought, ‘there are so many kids who can’t fish unless their dad has a boat.’ I contacted Fish and Wildlife in 98; they said it was only four feet deep, and they wouldn’t allow fish to go in there. So, I had to dig it out 18 feet deep,” said Johanning.
With the help of volunteers in the Tri-Cities, Johanning said he completed the seven-acre pond in 90 days. Disabled Marine Veteran Larry Larson was also there in the beginning, “It’s wonderful, and it’s a lot of fun to come down here and fish in a pond I helped create.”
The Kids Fishing Day has been a staple in the community, and for the past 23 years since the pond was completed, Johanning said he had given more than 43,000 new free rods to those participating.
“It’s a good opportunity for kids or young people who have never fished to learn how to catch rainbow trout and get assistance,” said Frank Olivette, a fisherman and one of the 50 to 60 volunteers helping over the weekend.
The Columbia Park Fishing Pond is a “juvenile pond,” so Johanning said that only kids 14 years and younger, seniors 70 years and older, and people with special needs are allowed to fish in the pond.
Johanning said if you missed this year’s Kids Fishing Day and qualify (14 and younger, 70 and older, or disabled), you can start fishing on Sunday, April 24th.
Olivette, who has a disability, said the favorite part of fishing at the Columbia Park Pond is the accessibility.
“There are very few places with disabled access. In a wheelchair, it takes me a while to get to my fishing spot. It’s comforting to know there is a place that fishermen with disabilities and younger kids and the elderly can access,” said Olivette.
“For the next four to six weeks following the event this weekend, there should still be fish in the pond to catch, for those 14 younger, seniors and those with disabilities,” said Johanning.
Wednesday, April 20th, was the official stocking of the pond. More than 6,000 rainbow trout, including a few other varieties, were released into the pond for the upcoming event.
The Kids Fishing Day will kick off on Friday, April 22nd, with a session for people with special needs. On Saturday, April 23rd, there will be eight sessions for those registered with fishing times from 7:30 a.m. to 4:00 p.m.
“The smiles are priceless, and every year, I get excited. And a lot of them are catching fish for the first time,” said Ken Johanning.
Participants who catch one of the 300-tagged fish will also have a chance to win prizes.
Learn more about KOE (Kids Outdoor Education: Click Here.
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