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25 years of making a reel difference

Fishing outreach brings kid anglers to Hagg Lake


by: NEWS-TIMES PHOTOS: TACEY SMITH - Marley Crumble of southeast Portland fishes at Hagg Lake during the Im Hooked free-fishing weekend, supported by Washington County Parks, the Coast Guard and the Northwest Steelhead Association Tualatin Valley Chapter, which provides fishing boats.Marley Crumble waited patiently on the banks of Hagg Lake last Saturday morning, fishing pole in hand. She was a long way from her Southeast Portland home — and that was the point.

I’m Hooked Inc. formed to help get Portland youth out of the city and into nature and fishing.

Now it’s helping kids in general get away from their screens. “These kids need to have something to get off of electronics and get outdoors,” said I’m Hooked President James Pescheck of Aloha.

The event started in 1989 as a free-fishing day with roughly 20 urban Portland kids fishing from the banks of Hagg Lake. Last weekend it celebrated its 25th anniversary with about 15 times that many casting out and reeling in.News-Times photo: Tacey Smith

The organization, which became a nonprofit in 2012 and took the name I’m Hooked, has broadened its focus from inner-city foster children to all children.

“All kids need an advantage,” said I’m Hooked CEO/Director Will Warren, who helped start the organization when he was living in Portland and working for the state Department of Human Services.

Now a Beaverton resident, Warren discovered fishing as a little kid, when his dad took him fishing on weekends. It was a magical time with a father who wasn’t usually around because he worked a graveyard shift.

“Those were the very best moments of my childhood,” said Warren, who credits the fishing trips with shaping him as a person. Fishing taught him patience. It got him outdoors. And it gave him a thrill when he felt a tug at the end of his line.

Warren, who is also a basketball coach, said fishing can be a lifelong activity for everyone, unlike other sports where participants can be discouraged by injuries or age or lack of talent.

And there’s less focus on winning and losing, he said: “You can get those kids out on a boat with a fishing rod and they’re all winners.”

Samantha Greenhalgh, 13, of Hillsboro watches sisters Kim (left) and Kaci Conner clean two of the eight fish she and her 7-year-old sister, Leah, caught last weekend.I’m Hooked has more recently extended its focus beyond children to families and to adults who have trouble getting out into nature.

Rufus Conner — who started out helping with the event on behalf of Portland Parks and Recreation — has been bringing his daughters along since the beginning. The girls, Kaci and Kim, grew from children who loved catching fish to adult volunteers whose favorite part is getting a new generation excited about the sport.

During the next 25 years, Warren hopes to add biking, camping, and hiking to the I’m Hooked activities. His goal is to get people “hooked on not just fishing, but the outdoors.”

News-Times photo: Tacey Smith




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