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CAST for Kids nets a great day of fishing

Posted: October 7, 2010 8:28 p.m.
Updated: October 8, 2010 4:55 a.m.

Capt. Ralph Rosas, a volunteer, Ian Monge and Melanie Monge enjoy a day of fishing at the CAST for Kids event, sponsored by Castaic Lake Water Agency, which took place at Castaic Lake on Saturday.

 

As the fishing boats converged upon the dock at the Castaic Lake lagoon Saturday, there was the heightened sense of anticipation you might find at a competitive fishing tournament: Who’s going to catch the big one?

Except this was not your ordinary fishing event.

The 32 fishing boats were manned by volunteer captains and first mates, and the 41 anglers joining them were children in need who would experience a rare opportunity to catch fish in the annual CAST (Catch a Special Thrill) for Kids fishing excursion.

The event was hosted by Castaic Lake Water Agency, the state Department of Water Resources, the CAST for Kids Foundation, the City of Santa Clarita and several other agencies.

“It’s one of those events that you get at least as much out of it as you put into it,” CLWA General Manager Dan Masnada said of the CAST for Kids event that  drew nearly 100 volunteers, including those who brought their boats and volunteers who helped out on shore. “You actually see the benefit of your participation, recognizing the kids and seeing them do something they’ve never done before.”

CAST for Kids is designed to provide children who are disabled or economically disadvantaged an opportunity to experience a day of fishing with help from volunteers who share their boats and their expertise to teach the children how to fish.

“The kids were just reeling in fish after fish,” said Masnada, who emceed the event’s awards luncheon on shore with help from Hayden Sohm, deputy director of the Los Angeles County Parks and Recreation Department.

“A couple of the kids caught 10-pounders,” Masnada added.

One of the children who caught one of the “big ones” was Larry Baker Jr., an autistic 11-year-old Reseda resident who also has Down syndrome.

“He was really excited about the event, and as he put it, he was ‘finding Nemo,’” said Larry’s father, Larry Baker Sr. “He was really excited about being on the boat, just something that he doesn’t do normally.”

Baker said his son was surprised when he hooked a 10-pound bass, which was brought onto the boat with help from the adult “fishing buddies” on board — and a net.

“It was a little bit bigger than he thought,” Baker said, laughing. “We all helped him. We weighed it, and we put it back in the water.”

“That was really great,” Baker added about his son’s experience. “It’s nice to be out there on the water, and the volunteers were great. We really have great appreciation for the event — there’s a lot that goes into putting an event like that together.”

Among the volunteers were Al Hasson and Al Cohen, members of the Friends of Castaic Lake who have been fishing together for 35 years.

“I’m actually the one who teaches the kids how to fish. He drives the boat,” joked Cohen, of Sherman Oaks.

Cohen said he and Hasson strive to provide a supportive environment for the children.

“There’s no bad casting. There are no mistakes. We try not to get too technical. Al knows the lake pretty well, so we go to places where we think the kids might get a bite.”

That kind of enthusiastic participation is what makes the day so great, according to CLWA event coordinator Karen Denkinger.

 “We’re so grateful for all of the volunteers who give their time to make this event happen, from the people who help with registration or serve the kids lunch to the captains and first mates who directly work with the kids out on the water,” Denkinger said. “It is a wonderful, heart-warming event.”

For more information about the nonprofit CAST for Kids Foundation, visit www.castforkids.org.

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