Forest Service helps bring “Big Catch” at Champ Camp

Release Date: Jun 24, 2011   Clovis, CA

Contact(s): Rebecca Garcia

Forest Service helps bring Big Catch at Champ Camp

"You can do it.  You're doing great.  Just a little bit more and you’ve got this one!"  Words of encouragement surrounded the pond as all the little "Buckaroos" tried their hand at the age-old practice of fishing.

Fourteen young fishermen and women, assisted by Forest Service fishing partners participated in a fishing derby June 13 at Wonder Valley Champ Camp, a program of the Alisa Ann Ruch Burn Foundation for children who have suffered burn injuries.

Champ Camp Fishing Derby is an annual event ran by current and retired Forest Service employees who volunteer their time to bring the joy of fishing into the lives of children, many who have never fished before or possibly believed they could fish.

"Champ Camp is all about what you can do, not what you can’t do," said Sarah Burton, director of programs for The Alisa Ann Ruch Burn Foundation. "The kids just love catching fish. Several have said this is the greatest week of their lives."

There were 13 fish caught by the young campers – primarily catfish of 2 to 3 pounds and a few bluegills.

The winning fish was a 3.45 pound catfish.  Although not all children catch a fish, all children do win prizes in categories, such as: “Wait til next year,” “Most intrigued by fish,” “Most enthusiastic,” “The one that got away,” etc.

"I liked it a lot," said Edgar, an 8 year-old camper. "I caught two little fish with spines." "He [Forest Service fishing partner] was nice. He helped me cast and showed me how to throw the line in the middle."

Current and retired Forest Service employees contribute to the derby by fishing with the children as fishing partners and by supplying the gear and some of the awards for the competition.

The overall goal of Forest Service participation in community fishing events is to provide education and introduce youth to the joy of fishing.

"Champ Camp is something you look forward to each year, because the kids get so enthusiastic about fishing and winning prizes.  You get a lot of satisfaction by seeing their enjoyment," said Phil Strand, a Forest Service Fisheries Biologist who has been volunteering with the fishing derby since 1994.

The fishing derby is part of a week-long camping program designed for burn-injury children and offered at no cost to children treated for their injuries in a California hospital.  The camp is available through the Burn Foundation and is hosted by Wonder Valley Ranch Resort in Sanger, CA.