CARBONDALE — For Landon Owens and Michael Bleyer, of the Marion High School Bass Fishing Team, any day spent fishing is better than a day at school.

On Wednesday, Owens and Bleyer, along with other members of the bass fishing team, spent the day at Bleyer Lake fishing with students from the school’s Strive program at the annual Fishing Expedition for Special Populations.

“We’re just helping out," Bleyer said, "putting worms on hooks and things like that."

Michael Bleyer is the grandson of Jim Bleyer, who is the brother of the event's sponsor, Frank Bleyer.

“This is my fourth year, and everyone’s had a blast,” Owens said.

“It’s fun for everyone. I enjoy helping others fish,” Bleyer added.

Teacher Tiffany Beard, of Marion High School Strive, said the school brought 21 students along with 23 members of the bass fishing team. She said it is her students’ favorite day of the year.

“We’re lucky to have the whole bass fishing team, so they have one-on-one help,” Beard said.

She added that one of the benefits of including the fishing team in the event is the social interaction between students. They become friends and say hello when they see each other in the hallways at school.

“They take good care of the [Strive] students and treat them like kings and queens,” Beard said.

“We are the only school fishing team who comes out to help with fishing,” Bleyer said.

“Being on the fishing team, we love to fish. Getting to share a sport we love with them is great,” Owens said.

This is the 33rd year for the fishing expedition. The event began in the mid-1980s when a few friends suggested that Frank Bleyer allow people with mental and physical challenges to fish at his lake. Bleyer, a former coach and teacher, liked the idea.

During the first few years, the event only included a couple classes from local schools.

Elizabeth Berumen, marketing director for The Bank of Carbondale, said 42 agencies and schools checked in at the event, with more than 700 participants and 300 staff members. About 200 volunteers, plus additional volunteers for parking, the fishing equipment area and kitchen, brought the number of people at this year’s fishing expedition to between 1,200 and 1,250.

Hooked: Annual fishing expedition for special populations draws 1,400 to Bleyer Lake

“In spite of a couple raindrops, it has been pretty nice today,” Berumen said. “I am seeing a lot of fish getting pulled out of the lake. After all, fishermen say a cloudy day is the best day to fish.”

In addition to fishing, which includes provided equipment, participants and volunteers receive a free lunch with ice cream for dessert and can take a tram ride around the lake.

The Fishing Expedition for Special Populations is sponsored by Frank Bleyer, The Bank of Carbondale, Mountain Valley Properties and Mountain Valley Water of Carbondale.

For more information or to get on the list to fish or volunteer, contact Berumen at The Bank of Carbondale at Elizabeth Berumen at The Bank of Carbondale at elizabeth@tboc.com.

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Marilyn Halstead is a reporter covering Williamson County.

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