For many of the children at Otto Jarstad Park on Saturday, it was their first time ever catching a fish.
That opportunity was provided by the Kitsap Poggie Club — a local fishing rights and conservation organization — at its 72nd annual Kids Fishing Party.
The event is open to kids ages 5 to 14. Eells Spring Hatchery in Shelton donated 1,200 rainbow trout, as well as 50 broodstock weighing in between 5 and 8 pounds, according to Club President Andrew Wright.
The Kitsap Poggie Club has been around since the 1940s and champions salmon fishing in the area, Wright said.
"Our whole goal is to protect the rights to fish for salmon, and also propagate fish as well," he said. "We work closely with the Suquamish Tribe and their salmon-rearing facilities so that we can help raise the 1.8 million salmon a year. We're all about protecting fishing rights for anglers here in Kitsap County."
The fishing party is hosted on city of Bremerton property in a Suquamish hatchery, so it takes multiple organizations to put it on, he said.
"The whole goal is to help kids catch their first fish," he said. "Today, I've already talked to some people that ... brought their children, and now they're bringing their grandchildren, and even their great-grandchildren. So it's a popular event here in the community and we're definitely happy to put it on."
Wright himself first started fishing when his grandpa took him out when he was 10 or 11 in Port Orchard.
"We went five or six years without catching a fish and then finally got involved with the poggie club and started learning how to catch fish," he recalled.
Wright's grandpa, Ron Flolo, said he remembered taking Wright out on a 12-foot open boat. Despite never catching anything, they had fun, he said.
The poggie club is a great resource for aspiring anglers, but there are other resources available as well, Wright said. A website he has found useful in the past is salmonuniversity.com. The site includes a Washington state-specific forum where people can find advice, he said.
Another resource he found indispensable was old books penned by British Columbia fisher Charlie White.
"I got his whole collection of books, and that really was what taught me how to catch fish," he said.
Although knowledge is important, experience is crucial, Wright added.
"You’ve got to be on the water to catch fish," he said. "Either if you’re casting from a dock, or from a boat, you’ve got to spend the time to figure it out."
For many of the kids who attended, it was their first time fishing — and some even decided that the sport isn't for them, Wright said.
"I talked to one dad with his little daughter; she decided pretty quickly that fishing wasn’t her sport, because she didn’t catch a fish right away," he said. "And that’s OK, too. Fishing’s not for everybody.
Ben Nevarez, 11, said he has attended the fishing party in the past, but that he was excited to do so this year after a two-year hiatus due to COVID.
His first time ever catching a fish was at a previous fishing party, he added.
“It was really fun when I first came here, and I wanted to do it again ever since,” he said. “But we haven’t really been able to because of COVID and everything.”
Nevarez’s grandmother, Carrie Riplinger, said they’ve been coming to the event since her 19-year-old grandson was 2.
Nevarez said he’s excited to keep up the habit; he said his grandparents got his family a fishing trip out in the deep sea. “I’m just coming here so that I can kind of figure out how to fish again,” he said.
The event also includes a derby, with the kids catching the top 10 biggest fish winning a fishing pole, and gift cards to Sportsman's Warehouse and the newly-opened Northman's in Port Orchard.