Youngsters reel in a day of fun at O'Neill Forebay

By Charles Guest / Cguest@losbanosenterprise.comMay 23, 2013 

Volunteers descended on San Luis Creek at the O'Neill Forebay on Saturday to help aspiring anglers hook a fish.

The 24th annual Kids' Fish, Swim and Fun Day attracted 173 people, including 93 children.

Craig Hackett, an operating engineer for California State Parks was one of nearly 30 volunteers.

"I'm trying to wear many hats today," said Hackett, who was also taking care of one of the park's water systems. "I'm trying to put in as much time as I possibly can to help out these kids. It's just my own way and my belief that when we target the kids at a young age and we instill good ways into them, then later on it comes back and they teach their grandchildren."

Hackett was the official "fish identifier," his job being to help children determine what kind of fish they had hooked, figure out if it were of legal size, and how to safely release it back into the water. Hackett also helped out with stringing poles, baiting hooks and even teaching children to tie fishing knots.

Hackett, an American Indian who is a member of the Blackwolf Gourd Society, is an avid angler. He said he finds serenity and comfort in fishing and wants to pass that along to others.

"I'm honored to be alive today, and so I like to give back in that good way," Hackett said.

Each participant received a colorful fun-day badge, a paper cup of free bait to lure the fish, and strawberries and whipped cream.

The Lewis family was attending for the first time.

"We really didn't know what to expect, we just happened to see it in the paper and decided to come on out," said Eric Lewis, who brought his 10-year-old son Nikolaus out early in the morning.

Lewis decided he liked what was going on and called home to ask his daughter and wife to come with food to barbecue.

Lewis and his son also availed themselves of another one of the free activities.

"We went on the pontoon boat," said Lewis. "We were the first ones, and actually there was nobody else, just me and Nikolaus on there, so it was perfect. We got a ride around the lake and it was really nice."

Jennifer Morgan of the California Department of Water Resources helped to organize the event.

"We're thrilled that the weather is absolutely perfect," she said. "It's not too windy, and not too hot."

Next month there will be another event for children as Morgan will be helping to host Kite Day on June 15 from noon to 4 p.m. at the Pacheco State Park near Dinosaur Point.

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