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DALLAS — With the COVID-19 safety restrictions loosening, an age-old tradition was revived Saturday, with a twist.

Long have parents taken their sons and daughters out fishing for a day of bonding at the water front. This time around they brought along deputies from the Polk County Sherrif’s Office.

Sheriff Mark Garton said 18 kids, accompanied by an adult each, were joined by 10 deputies for the trek out to Aaron Mercer Reservoir for the opportunity to haul in a cutthroat trout or a large mouth bass.

Usually open only in November, the groups gained rare access to the bucolic setting.

“This was a wonderful idea,” said Alicia Corton, after helping son Briggden, 5, cast out into the lake. “I’m so happy they did this. It’s great for the kids, especially with COVID going on. It gets them out of the house and out somewhere there’s not a whole lot of people. It’s a great way to kick off summer.”

Briggden emphasized he’d been fishing before for rainbow trout.

“I caught a lot of fish there,” he said.

To help the participants catch fish here, Garton said many organizations chipped in to help offset all the costs. He said the Oregon State Sheriff’s Association donated money to buy all the gear and a couple prizes, an American Outdoors donation helped cover the cost of food and snacks, Bi-Mart in Monmouth donated all the prizes and some tackle, Walmart of Dallas also provided tackle. and Dutch Bros. donated coffee and hot chocolate.

Tim English said he jumped at the “pretty cool” opportunity to sign up his son Benjamin, 10, in the event after seeing it advertised.

“What a great idea. It facilitates parents and children getting together and builds the relationship with the community,” English said.

While just two fish were caught Saturday, activities filled in the slower moments, including ladder ball toss, corn hole and lawn darts. The afternoon wrapped with barbecued hot dogs and sausages, along with snacks for everyone.

Garton said he received good feedback from the event.

“Some of the kids have never fished, nor did they want to even touch one, before,” he said. “So, it was a good learning experience and exposes them to things in nature.”

He added this first-ever event was a way to test the waters to see if the concept could work in the future.

“I believe we will continue to have this event going forward. We also talked with ODFW (Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife) and they are willing to partner with us next time. They just weren’t able to help this time, but they wanted to,” Garton said. “They even talked about how we could stock the water with fish beforehand,” Garton said. “So, we will see what this looks like in the future, but there are a lot of possibilities.”

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