C.A.S.T. for Kids ─ Weiss Lake, 2017
by Ron Presley
Woo em’ with catfish
Many of these kids never held a fishing pole and certainly never touched a catfish. That was about to change for many of the children attending the first ever C.A.S.T. (Catch A Special Thrill) for Kids event on Weiss Lake, AL in September of 2017.
The Cherokee County Chamber of Commerce & Tourism sponsored the local event along with many great local supporters. Thirty very special children and their families enjoyed a day of fun and fishing at the Cherokee County, AL lake.
Volunteer boat captains and guides, familiar with the beauty and bounty of Weiss Lake, hosted the kids on an adventure they would not soon forget. Along with the 30 kids were 53 enthusiastic volunteers. Twenty of the volunteers were boat captains and 33 were shore bound volunteers.
Thereasa Hulgan, Executive Director, of the Cherokee County Chamber of Commerce & Tourism pronounced the event a huge success, with a very good turnout for a first-time event.
“The event is free for special needs children,” explained Hulgan. The C.A.S.T. foundation is great to work with. We had someone who had participated in one of their events on another lake call me several months ago. The Chamber was looking for a project to partner with our Board of Education. They hold Special Olympics each Spring. This event fit perfectly. Our community got behind it and raised the money to support the event.”
“C.A.S.T. provided tee shirts, plaques, caps, fishing rods, and tackle boxes for the kids. Our business community supplied bags filled with lots of goodies, including tackle, worms, crickets, hooks, and snacks. At lunch we had hotdogs, chips, cupcakes, and drinks. There were inflatables for the kids to play on in between fishing. A great group of volunteers made the event a success.”
One local guide had been planning for months to participate in the event. He worried more about it as the time for the event approached, because he wanted the kids to have an experience that they would remember. Not many would have guessed how his solution would include catfish.
“I was worried about the children’s ability to maneuver around,” said Capt. Chad Hale, owner operator of Anthony’s Guide Service. “More than anything, I wanted them to catch a fish of a lifetime. Most of them may only get one chance.”
Captain Hale, a U.S. Coast Guard Licensed Master Captain, operates his fulltime, year-round guide service on Weiss, Guntersville, and Neely Henry Lakes in NE Alabama.
“Two days before the event it dawned on me,” reported Hale. “After being awake for hours every night worrying about how to take care of these kids, I knew what I would do.”
Hale decided to put out some fishing noodles (jug lines). “I’m going to put noodles out before daylight. In my mind this was the only way I was going to wow these kids in the few hours I would have with them.”
“My wife and other volunteers helped children that just wanted to bank fish,” continued Hale. “Other boaters took crickets and worms to help kids catch bream and small bass.”
“I ran kids back and forth to the noodles that was swimming everywhere,” joked Hale. “I wanted them to have a chance to actually catch their own fish and possibly experience some huge splashing and crashing. I still love that myself!”
Hale’s late-night revelation worked to perfection. “I let them steer the boat while we ran the noodle lines down. When we found a noodle with a catfish, I let them grab it or hand it off if needed. We pulled in about a dozen catfish.”
“It is hard to describe the reaction of these kids,” continued Hale. “I don’t think anyone has ever seen or felt it, whatever it was. And, I say that because I had never felt anything like it before.”
The kids were not the only ones to have a good time. “Lots of good people came forward to make this day one of the greatest fishing days of the Hale family’s life,” concluded Hale. “This this event was spectacular!”
The C.A.S.T. for Kids Foundation acknowledged the event for its success in a press release. “Every child is worth celebrating, can overcome limitations and have a victorious day. From the looks on the children’s faces during the event all of the children had a great time. Thanks again for everyone who made this event possible.”
“A special thanks to Jeff Barns with C.A.S.T. for Kids,” concluded Hulgan. “He gave us the chance to work with the kids and we hope to make this an annual event on Weiss Lake for special needs children. We had a great time as volunteers. The kids were precious. They had a great time too.”
Goals of the Fishing Kids Program
• Provide a meaningful and enjoyable fishing opportunity to local youth
• Promote fishing as an alternative leisure activity
• Offer education elements such as angler ethics, fish identification, and water safety to local youth
• Develop skills that provide a lifelong hobbyWeiss Lake C.A.S.T. for Kids Event Sponsors
Lew’s, Cherokee County Schools, ACE Hardware, Flambeau Outdoors, Save Weiss Lake, Cherokee County Chamber of Commerce, Weiss Lake Improvement Association, Cherokee Electric Cooperative, Advertising Dynamics Georgia, Cherokee Medical Center, Floyd Primary Care, Observer
Alabama Mountain Lakes Tourist Association
Bobby Ledbetter Twin City Used Cars
Cherokee County Commission
Main Street Family Urgent Care
Anthony’s Guide Service
Model Tees, Crappie Guide Weiss Lake, The Learning Tree of Alabama,
Berthel Fisher Investments, Bay Springs Country Inn & Marina,
OK Tire, Coosa Corner, Cherokee County Sheriff Dept, Cherokee County Rescue Squad, Cherokee EMS. Happenings Inflatables, Graves Three Rivers Landing, Ingles, Mack Wilson, Weiss Lake PumpersYou can learn more about the C.A.S.T. programs by visiting their website at http://C.A.S.T.forkids.org.