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Free fishing day puts kids outside

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By Dwane Wilder

stories@lafollettepress.com

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NORRIS–More than 30 volunteers and twice as many children turned out Saturday for the 11th annual Kids Fish Free Day event at the Miller Island river access area below Norris Dam.
The Clinch River Chapter of Trout Unlimited sponsors the event the first Saturday of June every year.
Kids had a chance to put on a pair of waders and fish for trout with the help of adult chaperones. They also got to tie their own fishing flies, take boat rides and learn about aquatic life and river conservation.
“We get as much out of this as the kids do,” said CRCTU President Dick Geiger.
“We’re finishing up with our environmental and conservation projects and beginning to concentrate our efforts on outreach. I think (fishing) license sales are probably down for adults, so this is another way to get kids interested in fishing.”
The event was held in conjunction with Free Fishing Day in Tennessee, a special date set aside each year during which no license is required to fish public waters.
The Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency partnered in the effort by stocking several thousand trout before the event, while the Tennessee Valley Authority structured its release schedule at Norris Dam in order to keep the water level low for waders.
A pair of wounded warriors from the Knoxville chapter of Project Healing Waters also participated in the event.
Josh and Jessica Callihan, a young Navy couple, drove up from Maryville to fish with the kids. Jessica recently won a fly-fishing tournament in Virginia, where she caught four rainbow trout more than 14 inches long and two more than 19 inches long.
Project Healing Waters is a fly fishing organization for disabled veterans and a partner to the Clinch River Chapter of Trout Unlimited.