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Sun and smiles as kids enjoy Take a Kid Fishing (with video)

This year's Take a Kid Fishing event drew 135 youth Wednesday who proved the fish are out there with the help of 63 guides. Proudly displaying their fish caught on Lake Bemidji are, from left, guide Larry Eichstadt, Colt Johnson and Michael Fogarty. Monte Draper | Bemidji Pioneer

BEMIDJI -- After last year's Take a Kid Fishing event fought through rain, the 26th annual event brought just as much sun as it did fish and young smiling faces.

"Most of us are trying to give back a little bit," Take a Kid Fishing Committee member Jo Clayton said. "We've had fishing as part of our lives, and we think it is a very healthy lifestyle."

This year's event brought in 135 kids ranging in age from 10 to 15, with 82 guides to teach them the art of fishing.

The event kicked off at 10 a.m. at Cameron Park, but Clayton said some guides were out on the water as early as 6 a.m.

Clayton said many of the guides have volunteered for all 26 years. Rookie guides like James and Aaron Bofferding are now volunteering their time because they remember participating in the event as kids and want to return the favor.

"It's just good to get the kids out there -- I mean, I did this just a couple years ago," James Bofferding said. "I learned a lot from it my first couple of years and we caught a lot of fish."

Participants caught a lot of fish, which helped feed their parents at Lake Bemidji State Park at the end of the day.

Gerald Sizer, a volunteer who helped cook the fish, said nearly 140 pounds worth of fish were dumped into the deep fryer throughout the evening.

Clayton said the number of children participating dropped some this year, as the event had been averaging 150 kids a year. She said part of that may be that parents are not having as many kids. When it comes down to it, though, she said it does not matter how many show up, it is just about giving them the chance to fish.

"The kids that sign up and want to go, we want to take them fishing no matter how many that is," Clayton said.

She said the event would not be possible without the guides, the onshore volunteers and the support of the community.

"We are very proud of the fact that we have had the group of people we have to take care of these kids for all these years," Clayton said. "They are responsible for them until their parents see them again at the end of the day, and that is a huge responsibility. They do a great job."