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'Rods and Reels for Kids' program going strong in Bemidji area

Bruce Aalgaard of Bemidji has been refurbishing rods and reels for children in the Take a Kid Fishing program for 10 years.

Bemidji's Take a Kid Fishing program will once again provide free rods and reels to youngsters who take part in the 2010 event, which is scheduled for June 9.

Since the "Rods and Reels for Kids" program started 10 years ago, 574 have been given to participants in the 24th annual Take a Kid Fishing event.

"Our goal is to provide 1,000 by 2015," said Bruce Aalgaard of Bemidji, who heads up the rods and reels program and is a committee member for Take a Kid Fishing.

Community members can help out by donating new or used rods and reels in time for the event. They can be dropped off with Carol Olson at the Tourist Information Center on the Lake Bemidji waterfront.

Those who cannot deliver them can call Aalgaard at 218-444-8188 to arrange for pickup.

"Rummage sales have been the source for about half of the rods and reels," Aalgaard said. "But the tremendous generosity of Bemidji area residents has provided the other half through donations of brand new rods and reels and used ones that we have cleaned and reconditioned. The poeople in the Bemidji area truly care about kids."

Each year the rods and reels are given to children who participate in Take a Kid Fishing. About 160 kids will be accompanied by 75 local fishing guides. They are taken on a four- to five-hour fishing trip, and the day culminates at Lake Bemidji State Park with guides, kids and parents all enjoying a walleye fish fry prepared by the George Dahl and Jerry Sizer crew.

"About half our kids don't own their own rod and reel," Aalgaard said. "We will again attempt to fix that problem so they can enjoy the experience of fishing beyond this one day."

He said the Take a Kid Fishing program isn't about who catches the biggest fish.

"This day is all about nurturing smiles, like the ones generated when a guide witnesses a 10- to 15-year-old child land his or her first fish of a lifetime. It is usually impossible to determine which of the two smiles is greater, the guide's or the child's."