Watch our family fishing event video to get a glimpse of the excitement at a recent event.

WDFW family fishing events host record-breaking year

Volunteers sought for events next spring


Lakes throughout the state echoed with the sounds of laughter, gasps, and squeals of delight during family fishing events this past spring and summer hosted by the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW). The Department hosted a record-breaking year with 19 events, sharing the fun of fishing with nearly 5,000 attendees.

The anticipation and thrill of feeling that tug on the line is a new experience for many young people who attend the events, which are tailored for youth ages 5–14 and their families.

“When those fish bite and those kids feel that tug, it is an overwhelming sensation and that is burned into their memory for their life. And then they become an angler,” said WDFW Youth Fishing Coordinator John Pahutski. “I know, because it happened to me.”

A proud young angler shows of her first catch at a recent WDFW family fishing event. (Photo by WDFW)

WDFW began hosting youth fishing events in 1999 in partnership with local municipalities, nonprofit organizations, and volunteers. The events aim to educate the public, promote conservation, and help people learn how to fish.

“There are people that don’t even know they like to fish until they come to one of our events,” Pahutski said.

Closer look: Behind the scenes of a fishing event

A day prior to an event, WDFW staff and volunteers head to the lakes and cast a net larger than a football field along the shore and stock it with between 800 and 2,500 adult rainbow trout from WDFW hatcheries. The fish range from 11–15 inches in size.

The morning of an event, families begin arriving in shifts. Volunteers help children bait and cast their reels. Participants also learn about fish identification, water safety, fishing ethics, casting mechanics, the basics of baiting, and conservation.

Most children catch their first fish within five minutes, thanks to the help of dedicated and skilled volunteers, Pahutski said. It takes up to 20 volunteers to staff the events.

Volunteers at family fishing events provide education and hands-on assistance for young anglers. (Photo by WDFW)

Volunteers are key to successful fishing events

Colby Buell, who has volunteered at fishing events for several years, said helping a child catch their first fish is rewarding for both the volunteer and the new angler. He hopes the participants gain enough knowledge so that they can go out and continue fishing on their own.

“It gives them a sense of self accomplishment,” Buell said. “They can be proud of themselves. It’s fun at all skill levels. Anybody can do it. The more you do it, the better you get at it and the more fun it gets. It’s something you can do with friends and family. It gets the kids outside and gets them to connect with nature.”

Fishing is great for conservation because it’s teaching kids about natural resources and the environment through fishing, Pahutski said.

A young angler is immersed in nature. (Photo by WDFW)

Fishing connects families to the natural world

The National Wildlife Federation (NWF) states that fishing is a fun and rewarding activity that connects families with local watersheds and wildlife. The benefits are economic, social, and ecological. Anglers experience physical exercise, relaxation, stress relief, bonding with family members and friends, dexterity improvement, and self-esteem growth. Recreational fishing also benefits children and youth with behavioral and mental health issues.

Fishing is an affordable and healthy outdoor activity that can be enjoyed throughout life and provide healthy, local protein. The startup requirements include only a fishing license (anglers 14 years and younger do not need a fishing license), rod and reel, and bait.

The ecological benefits of fishing are among the most important, according to the NWF. “Fishing is an extraordinary form of sustainable use that is known to create habitat stewards, stimulate conservation principals and policy, and generate revenue for conservation budgets. Fishing has been and will continue to be a leading contributor to fish and wildlife conservation.”

“Moral of the story: Go fish. It’s good for you and the environment,” the NWF said. “Now more than ever, it is vital adults connect kids with nature to create tomorrow’s conservation leaders. Many of those future wildlife champions will be created by having a rod and reel placed in their hands and experiencing the one-of-kind thrill of hooking, playing, landing, and releasing a fish.”

Prior to each family fishing event, lakes are stocked with between 800–2500 adult rainbow trout from WDFW fisheries. Participants can keep the fish they catch to enjoy for a home-cooked meal.

Learn more about fishing in Washington

In Washington, family fishing events are over for the season, but fishing opportunities continue year-round. Youth under 15 fish for free and don’t need a license. WDFW stocks many lakes with trout for the Trout Derby, which continues through October. Lakes will also be stocked with fish for the annual Black Friday fishing event.

Folks who are eager to get started fishing before next season’s family fishing events can check out this handy WDFW beginner’s guide to trout fishing.

For up-to-date stocking information this fall and throughout the year, anglers should follow the Department’s weekly catchable trout stocking report at, where they can find reports on which lakes have been recently stocked.

Get involved and support family fishing events

Plans are already in the works for the 2024 family fishing event season. Dates and locations will be posted at the start of the year. Check the youth fishing events page for more info and check out the volunteer page to learn more about getting involved.

You can also support youth fishing events in your community with a donation to the Youth Outdoors Initiative.

Join us next year as a volunteer at a WDFW family fishing event.



The Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife

The Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife is dedicated to preserving, protecting and perpetuating the state’s fish and wildlife resources.