By RYAN PFEIL
If 5-year-old Armeda Kirkpatrick ever pens her autobiography, she’ll have to devote a chapter to April 27, 2013: the day she caught her first fish.
“I caught it down back there,” the proud Klamath Falls youngster said at Howard Prairie Resort’s fish-cleaning station, pointing to a spot near her campground.
It was a stroke of luck that came after two hours or so of trying. She took a 10-minute break with her aunt and grandma, and when she came back to her spot, the 2-pound trout was on her line.
“It was fun. We weren’t expecting much,” said Armeda’s aunt Megan Solus.
It was just one of numerous stories Saturday at the Jackson County reservoir’s opening day of trout fishing. Poles in hand, hundreds flocked to the lake, located about 25 miles east of Ashland on the Dead Indian Plateau. By 11 a.m., sunlight glinted on dozens of taut lines, and boats dotted the water.
“It’s a great spot to fish,” said 16-year-old Chase Sullivan of Central Point, five hours or so into his day of fishing with friends. “It’s always really nice out here.”
The 2013 season also kicked off with new management at the resort. Jackson County took control of the marina and campgrounds this year.
Officials said they have made several layout changes to the restaurant and store, and have added more payment stations to reduce congestion. The Mt. Ashland Association received a contract to manage the eatery, which has new cabinets, a new floor and what facility officials hope is a more open feel.
“It’s been really successful,” said Steve Lambert, Jackson County Parks program manager.
By 8 a.m. Saturday, all 23 of the resort’s boats had been rented out, park officials said.
“We’ve been getting ready for the last few weeks,” Lambert said. “Staff’s been full steam ahead.”
Hopeful fishers were ready, too.
Some, such as Jeff Morris of Ashland were just getting started. Morris said he’s been fishing at the lake for years. He once hooked a 7-pound trout, a fish that took him about 15 minutes to reel in.
“It took a long time,” he said.
Others had been at it for hours. Jeff Hammers of Klamath County joined his grandsons, 8-year-old Nathan Dalton and 10-year-old Trevor Dalton, on the rocks at the base of the resort jetty. Nathan reeled in his line with Hammers’ help.
“Lift your pole up, lift your pole up,” Hammers encouraged. “Atta boy, and reel.”
The three tried their hands at fishing from a boat during the early-morning hours but didn’t have much luck. They later switched to fishing from shore at a spot where they’ve had success in past years.
“I just love being out,” Hammers said of the pastime. “I’ve probably been fishing close to 50 years. It’s just fun, especially with these boys.”
Lambert said he’s confident that the trend will continue.
“I think we’re going to have a good year up here,” he said.
Reach reporter Ryan Pfeil at 541-776-4468 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
This story originally appeared in Medford Mail Tribune.