PRINEVILLE RESERVOIR — It took just a few minutes for Paige Ollendorf to hook a catfish off a pontoon boat in a small, quiet cove Sunday morning.
The 14-year-old from Prineville stood patiently, holding her fishing rod until she felt the tug of a fish on the line.
Kim Ollendorf, Paige’s mom, said her daughter loves to fish and is good at it. But Paige can’t see anymore, so she relies on other senses to tell her when to set the hook and begin reeling in the fish. Paige already had plans for the catfish and any others she might catch: She would take them to her grandma, who would roast them with herbs for dinner.
Paige’s Sunday fishing trip was part of the annual C.A.S.T. for Kids event, which provides an opportunity for children and young adults with special needs to go out on Prineville Reservoir with experienced anglers. C.A.S.T. stands for Catch A Special Thrill. This year, organizers took approximately 30 children and young adults out on the reservoir to fish, on 13 boats that ranged from the pontoon to sleek, fast bass boats.
Brenda DeGree, president of the Central Oregon Bass Club, said this is the 16th year of C.A.S.T. at the Prineville Reservoir.
“I came here once, and I was hooked,” DeGree said.
Jim Owens, executive director of C.A.S.T. for Kids, attended the Prineville event on Sunday. Owens, who lives in Renton, Wash., visits many of the programs, which now surpass 50 and are spread across 30 states.
Owens said the idea for the nonprofit came to him in 1991 at a national conference of The Bass Federation, where a speaker from the Bureau of Reclamation said the federal agency wanted to partner with anglers to organize more public events on their bodies of water.
“It just hit me right then that I wanted to take out kids that probably wouldn’t be able to go out (fishing) otherwise,” Owens said.
Dale Barrett, the area coordinator for C.A.S.T., recently retired from the Bureau of Reclamation and said C.A.S.T. fits with the bureau’s goal to introduce kids to natural areas, and encourages them to be good stewards of the land.
“It’s rare you see a public event targeted to special needs kids,” Barrett said. “When you see those kids coming off the boat, big smiles on their faces, it really swells the heart.”