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Volunteer Bob Meiss mops up mud and muck as he works on salvaging the main building at Hooked on Fishing after the main building and fishing ponds were flooded by the Illinois River. Photos by Fred Zwicky.

Volunteers busy cleaning up flooded Hooked on Fishing facility

May 10, 2013 at 07:19 PM

Peoria Journal Star

Kids are going to have to wait to fish this summer as Hooked on Fishing, a local nonprofit that teaches kids to fish, rehabilitates its facilities due to flooding.

Its four ponds and the main building where equipment is stored and children learn basic techniques were flooded. The building was nearly rendered a complete loss.

“We put sandbags around the building to try to save it from the water,” said Mike O’Reilly, who owns Hooked on Fishing. “We had about 18 inches of water in the facility. We are in the process of cleaning it up. I don’t know if its going to be usable anymore.”

The four ponds are routinely stocked with fish that are caught by children and subsequently released. Many of the fish are now gone, swept away by the flood.

“We have trout, we have catfish, we have bass,” said O’Reilly. “We buy these fish and raise them, and people catch them. I’m afraid most of our fish may be gone. The river came over the levy and some of the fish just swam and left.”

O’Reilly hopes to reopen as soon as he finishes rehabilitating the facilities — reopening their doors to school groups, scouts, park districts, community groups, churches, special needs groups, nursing homes and other organizations that provide services for kids, senior citizens or disabled individuals.

Hooked on Fishing provides the equipment and bait and teaches the ins and outs of fishing for free — from safety, how to use a rod and reel, baiting a hook, fishing techniques, landing the catch, handling the fish, removing hooks and fish identification.

Once the waters are restocked and the debris cleaned up, O’Reilly said he envisions reopening in June — continuing to provide children with that sense of accomplishment and pride that comes from catching a fish.

“If you do catch fish, it’s the world’s greatest thing,” he said.

Helen Zhao can be reached at 686-3196 or .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address). Follow her on Twitter @HelenJZhao.

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