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Fishing tournament provides free family fun

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Posted: Monday, May 6, 2019 3:34 pm

Continuing South Dakota traditions is important to outdoorsmen. They want to see their children and grandchildren enjoy activities which bring them pleasure.

"If Steve could take a day off and go fishing, he did it," said his wife, Retha Thrun. "If he could take his grandkids, it was even better."

Recognizing this, friends of Steve Thrun set up a memorial in his honor after he died. Since 2013, the shape of Casting for Kids has changed as others have made memorial donations and become involved.

Now, Casting for Kids is a Saturday morning tournament -- though all of the children who participate go home with a prize -- and is held annually to coincide with the state Department of Game, Fish & Parks' Free Fishing Weekend. By scheduling the event in this way, organizers hope fishing will become a family affair.

Wildlife Conservation Officer Cody Symens can testify to the fact that fishing is fun for children of all ages. His daughter Tegan, who is only 3, still talks about going fishing last year.

"She can tell you everything about her experiences," Symens said.

The tournament is open to children of all ages. District Park Manager John Bame said that if a child can hold a pole, that child is old enough to fish.

"There's nothing like watching a small child get excited catching his or her first fish," Thrun said.

The tournament will be held on May 18 at Lake Herman State Park. Registration begins at 9:30 a.m. However, organizers are asking that families pre-register to ensure there is enough food for lunch and enough prizes for all of the children.

Participants will fish from 10 a.m. to noon. Families do not need to have fishing gear in order to participate.

"If they want to bring their gear, they can, but we have all the supplies they need," Bame said.

In fact, Lake Herman State Park has fishing gear that can be checked out throughout the summer months. Families who find the Casting for Kids tournament to be a positive experience can continue to enjoy the activity throughout the summer.

"It's a healthy addition," Symens said.

Apart from free fishing weekends, which this year will include Mother's Day and Father's Day in addition to May 18, ages 16 and older who fish are required to purchase a license. However, youth under age 16 are not required to have a license.

"The thrill of each individual catch is that in South Dakota, you don't know what you're reeling in," Symens said.

Lake Herman has a number of game fish that can be caught from shore, including walleye, northern pike, white bass and perch.

In addition, there are non-game fish such as carp. Last year, one of the participants in the Casting for Kids tournament fought for nearly seven minutes to bring in a fish that proved to be a large carp.

"The line snapped at the very end," Symens said, adding that the child did get to see the fish.

Prizes are awarded based on the total length of all fish an individual catches. This is different than more competitive tournaments where weight is also taken into consideration. The primary goal is for the participants to have fun.

When budding outdoorsmen have a positive experience, fishing stories can become part of a family's history. Thrun talked about going fishing at Walker's Point with her husband and son when her son was young.

"Nobody was catching anything," she said, setting the stage. Her son didn't have a lot of patience, either. Every time her husband cast the line, her son would reel it in.

"He started yelling, `I've got a fish! I've got a fish'!" Thrun related.

Neither parent got too excited, figuring he had just snagged the line. They were pleasantly surprised when he reeled in a good-sized walleye.

"Each kid is proud of every fish they catch," Symens said.

In addition to offering free fishing the weekend of May 18, GFP is also offering free access to state parks. Those who wish to camp will still pay a camping fee, but they will not be charged an entrance fee.

Organizers hope this combination of factors will encourage families to not only participate in the tournament but also enjoy a full day of outdoor activities.

Lunch for the tournament is being provided by the Izaak Walton League. Area businesses also make donations.

To pre-register, call Symens at 256-5005  to report the number of family members who will be attending.

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