Even though it was cloudy and a bit chilly, Saturday morning posed as the perfect day for the Finatics Fishing Club to host its first annual Special Friends Fishing Day at Murry Pond in Porterville, where those with disabilities (both adults and children) had the entire pond to themselves for this event. 

More than 40 children and their families were out at the pond eager to catch the biggest trout they could, and members of the Finatics were making their rounds around the pond to help bait hooks and reel in fish. The participants were spaced out around the pond, giving everyone enough room to fish comfortably.

The afternoon before this event, the California Department of Fish and Wildlife deposited 300 trouts to the pond, all of which were good sized fish. This ensured that each participant went home with a nice fish to eat. 

“We have been to a couple of other events for special needs  kids and it gave me the idea of doing an event for our community,” said Finatics member and event host Gerardo Verduzco. “We did one last year and we were invited back out there this year in Visalia for the Carlos Vera Foundation. It’s mainly for kids with autism. I figured that instead of driving all the way to Visalia and putting on events for other cities, why not do one for our city as well.”

The event wasn’t strictly for children with disabilities. Several Veterans had their fishing poles out there, and many adults with disabilities joined in on the fun too.

“It’s mainly for kids, but we opened it up to adults with disabilities as well,” said Verduzco. “I was able to talk to Fish and Game and get a waiver to wave the fishing license for adults who have disabilities today.”

The Special Friends Fishing Day was non-competitive, meaning it was all for fun. There were no weigh-ins for each fish, nor any prizes given out at the end of the day. The Finatics did, however, supply 200 free fishing poles for the event.

“Since it is our first year, we aren’t doing any weigh-ins or anything like that,” said Verduzco. “Our main focus this year is just to make sure that everybody that comes out has a good time and goes home with a free fish. We purchased about 200 fishing poles to give away. As people are coming out, we’re giving them a free bracelet and a free fishing pole.”

Finatics was the sole host for the event, but several other fishing clubs helped out during the day. 

“We started Finatics with a goal in mind, and that was to get kids, Veterans, and anybody with a disability back out to just enjoy Mother Nature,” said Verduzco. “Like I’ve said, this is our first year and it definitely won’t be our last.”

The Finatics are hoping to make Special Friends Fishing Day an annual event for the City of Porterville, and want to bring the community together in support of children and adults with disabilities. To learn more about the Finatics and the events they host, follow them on Faebook. 

“I think this is an awesome event. Even though our numbers are low this year, I know next year more people will be talking about it and I’m really looking forward to it,” said Verduzco. “We will be expecting a bigger crowd next year.”

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