At pond near Elkhorn, kids with special needs hone their fishing skills | Omaha Metro

Before reeling in the bluegill she dubbed “Mike,” Addison Adams bent her knees a bit and tugged hard as her dad, Mike Adams — the fish’s namesake — cheered her on.

As the fish rose out of the water, Addison, 12, quickly handed the rod to her 11-year-old brother, Hayden, and backed away from the water, tentatively stepping back toward the wriggling fish only for her favorite part: the goodbye kiss she blew at “Mike” before tossing him back into the pond.

Saturday’s Fishing Is Fun event brought about a dozen young fishermen and fisherwomen to the pond at Skyline Ranches Park near Elkhorn. The clinic, put on by the nonprofit Nebraska Walleye Association Kids Fishing Clinics Charity, was one of two annual clinics geared for children with special needs. Most of the families that attended are members of the Omaha chapter of Dads Appreciating Down Syndrome.

The afternoon included tips about identifying fish and demonstrations on knot-tying. The participants got to hold various types of bait, including minnows, worms and nightcrawlers. Before heading to the pond, all got a chance to perfect their casts into the grass, aiming to reel in brightly colored plastic fish.

For 14-year-old Jordan Burtzel, a veteran of the Fishing Is Fun program, the afternoon offered a chance to brush up on skills that he can use when out on the boat with his dad.

Jordan’s mom, Carena Burtzel, said she keeps bringing her son to the event because it gives him a chance to learn from experienced fishermen who teach with patience.

“They can be kind of like grandfather figures for him,” Carena said. “It’s a great opportunity for him to be proud of himself.”

And proud he was. After reeling in a couple of bluegill alongside his 20-year-old sister, Rieley, Jordan was grinning.

“This is fun,” Jordan said after telling a volunteer…

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