KINGMAN - If the smiles on the faces of the 199 kids that attended the Kingman Elks Lodge No. 468 Fishing for Smiles event were any indication, then it was plain to see it was a huge success.
The kids and an equal number of parents swarmed the pond at the Yellow Pine Ranch, located on the east side of the Hualapai Mountains. Ranch owners Scott and Kerry Fisher have allowed the local Elks lodge to hold the fishing event at their private lake for two years in a row.
"We love this event," Kerry Fisher said. "We're going to have to make the south side of the lake more accessible next year so we can get more kids out here!"
And while the weather was unseasonably cool and many believed that that was the reason the lake's catfish and largemouth bass had a bad case of lockjaw, it was obvious that a good time was had by all.
It all started with the kids receiving a new rod and reel when they checked in, then they headed for the lake that had been stocked with a thousand pounds of hard-fighting and good-eating channel catfish by the Elks.
The pond also has a resident population of largemouth bass and green sunfish.
Fishing started around 7 a.m. and it wasn't long before the sounds of kids hooked up to a fish rang across the water.
The kids were limited to three fish each, and those that weren't fishing were participating in a Kasting Kids event that volunteer Shane Moline was running. In that event, kids casted, pitched and flipped a lead-headed jig at a bullseye target that was a few feet away. These are the three most used techniques that anglers use.
Winners of the Kasting Kids events were: Senior Division - first place, Stefano Zorrozusa, second, Joe Cudney; Junior Division - first place, Sarah Fiddler, second, Xeth Walker.
Besides the fishing and the Kasting Kids events, an all-you-could-eat hamburger and hot dog lunch was served free of charge by Gale Clark and the rest of his crew. As a special treat this year, volunteers Gary Martin and Gary Siegfried operated a fish fryer where they cooked some of the caught catfish.
Joe Hererro and Scotty Dunton cleaned the fish brought to them at the fish cleaning station located on the lake's northern shore.
"It was a perfect day," said Bob Kay, one of the Elks lodge committee members who really made this event happen. Kay was joined by Jerry Grimes and Bill Shilling in conducting the planning of the event for the local group.
A notable dignitary who attended the event was Mohave County Sheriff Tom Sheahan, who has always been a huge supporter of kids' events like this one and takes time from his busy schedule to attend these events.
Sheahan presented trophies to the winners of the fishing and Kasting Kids events, and the special Sheriff's trophies that his agency sponsored for the largest catfish caught.
"This is a wonderful event," Sheahan said.
Winners of the trophies for the largest fish caught during the event included Jose Conde, who won first place in the Senior Division, while Jacob Farnsworth took second. In the Junior Division, Dylan Whittington won first place, while Rachel Cudney took home the second-place trophy. Cudney also won a trophy for the heaviest stringer in the Junior Division.
Kay noted that any child who did not receive their trophies should contact him at (928) 530-4123 to arrange to pick them up.
He said it was due to the many volunteers that made this event work so well. "Besides the help of our lodge members, we had folks from the Mohave County Sheriff's Office, Pine Lake Fire Department, Mohave Sportsman Club, Arizona Game and Fish Department and the Kingman Fire Department helping out."
Chris Newberry, Linda Grimes, Staci Kay, Lorrie Newbery and Brenda Newberry were just a few volunteers who ensured that the program was a success. "We couldn't have done this without all of them working together."
The planning for next year's event is already underway. A grant is being sought from the Arizona Game and Fish Department, and the Mohave Sportsman Club will be co-sponsoring the event.
Kay said he was happy to be partnering up with the MSC who ran a very successful Kids Fishing Program for many years at a commercial pond north of Kingman. The MSC sponsored and ran that event until it severed its relationship with the owner of the pond several years ago.
I suspect that by teaming up with the MSC, the Fishing for Smiles event will only get better.
If that's even possible.