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Where there are fish, there are tales

by JOSA SNOW
Staff Reporter | September 11, 2023 1:06 AM

Volunteers hoped to give kids the time of their lives at the Catch a Special Thrill, or C.A.S.T. for Kids, one-day fishing event Sunday in Q’emiln Park.

“It’s just a fun thing for the kids,” said Michael Quinn, commandant at the Pappy Boyington Detachment Marine Corps League. “I mean you look at the excitement. They don’t get to do stuff like this, and that’s what we’re here for.”

The league was a sponsor for this year’s fishing trip that pairs children with disabilities or special needs to volunteers with boats. The nonprofit C.A.S.T. gives kids a fishing pole, life vest, tackle box and T-shirt. Then boaters and fishermen take them out on the water to catch fish and a few tales.

“Last year, I caught the biggest salad!” Tracy Sams said.

Tracy, 10, has arthrogryposis, which limits the use of her arms and legs. She uses her chin and mouth to reel in the line. Last year, she brought her motorized wheelchair onboard a pontoon boat, but this year she didn’t need it. She hoped to catch a fish, like her very lucky brother, Tanner Sams, 13.

“Last year, I caught two monster fish!” he said.

A monster fish is a specific size, which Tanner illustrated on his friend’s arm by measuring from past his fingertips to past his elbow.

This year, Tanner caught three fish by 9 a.m., one a monster fish, with Lakeland Middle School Principal and volunteer Harrison Bertsh.

It was the third annual C.A.S.T event in North Idaho, and the Samses' third year participating.

Tanner’s story is that he catches a fish every year, and Bertsh, who fishes with Tanner each year, tells the same fish tales.

To prove it, the pair brought a monster fish back to the dock to show off and wave around for everyone to see, with Tanner shouting to his sister with glee.

“You develop those relationships,” Quinn said. “And that’s what’s really good about a lot of this, especially for a lot of these kids. They look forward to it every year.”

Tanner and Tracy love the opportunity, which they don’t usually get. Their mother, Marri Sams, is allergic to fish and can’t touch them.

Arianna Nash, 15, and her sister, Sophia Nash, 8, lit up as they talked about the fun time they had.

“She got two rainbow trout, while I got like eight different catfish,” Arianna said, pointing to her sister. “I would go cast and I would reel in one of the biggest catfish. Because it was like a 10 or 15-pound catfish.”

Even if people didn’t catch anything, everyone had something to celebrate. Kids got to drive the boats or bait hooks, and volunteers celebrated with each child as they caught a fish.

Boaters announced every catch over a radio to organizers on shore. They tallied fish and announced them on a loudspeaker.

When everyone came back to shore for lunch, they received a plaque with their picture on it and an award, including one for the biggest salad.

“That’s what it’s about,” Quinn said. “It’s developing those memories and those fun times. Because they’ve got so many other things going on that aren’t so much fun.”

Quinn passed out refreshments on shore and told fish tales while children fished with his league’s Sr. Vice Commandant Dennis Dodd.

“Last year, Dennis had a girl on his boat,” Quinn said. “He would cast it out there and get the hit, and she’d start pulling in. As soon as she saw the fish, she’d let go of the pole. He lost three poles in the river there.”

But not all is lost or washed away in the river.

“Once they all come in you’ll hear some great stories as they’re walking around, about what happened out there,” Quinn said. “It’s something that will always be special. They’ll always remember it fondly and that’s the key.”

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JOSA SNOW/Press

From left, Quinn, Riley and Kate Gothner settle into Cameron Bandy's boat for a day of fishing near Q'emiln Park on Sunday.

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JOSA SNOW/Press

Tanner Sams, 12, illustrates how big a "monster fish" is on his friend's arm before heading to the water for a C.A.S.T for Kids day of fishing.

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JOSA SNOW/Press

"I love fishing!" shouts Tanner Sams, running to catch up to his friend Luke Olsen, youth leader at Mountain View Church. Volunteers prepare tackle boxes, T-shirts and fishing poles for a day of fishing organized by C.A.S.T. for Kids.