Tyler Morgan and Bentley Herek are 7- and 6-year-old fishermen.
The two and their family love to catch walleye and catfish at Lake Cunningham, like lots of local anglers.
Tyler and Bentley’s family don’t just catch their fish and go home. Once they’ve packed up they have a second job — picking up the beer cans, pizza boxes and discarded fishing lines that litter the northwest Omaha reservoir.
“There is a lot of trash out there, more than there should be,” Joel Herek said. “We try to pick up as much fishing string as we can, because animals get caught up in them.”
Trash bags have become part of the required supplies for every outing for the family of five, which includes Herek, girlfriend Stephanie Brandt, the two boys and baby Lincoln. The fishermen usually fill up two bulging bags of trash.
Herek caught the boys throwing down a few water bottles when they first started fishing together. But now they know how important it is to protect the animals and the lake.
“They are really excited to get out there and do it,” Joel Herek said. “They feel like they are making a difference.”
Herek has been fishing at Cunningham for 10 years. He’s an Army veteran who served in Afghanistan for 14 months. He suffers from post-traumatic stress disorder and says those moments on the water help.
“You don’t have to think about anything,” he said. “You just get out on the lake and enjoy life.”
Ending the day picking up trash isn’t what he had in mind.
Herek thought that only he and his family were cleaning up because they’d find so much trash around their usual spot. But when someone else on the Nebraska Fishing and Hunting Bragging Board posted a picture of a bag of trash they’d collected at Cunningham, Herek thought it was time to take action.
Herek, one of the administrators of the Facebook group, is planning a cleanup at 10 a.m. Sunday at Cunningham. More are possible.
Catfish Crazy Nebraska is sending some of its members with some prizes for participants.
Herek suggested that interested people bring trash bags. He plans to provide some but he’s hoping so many people turn up that he’ll run out.
He’s also hoping to work with the city to provide trash cans in the area, because having none is part of the problem.
“I want to make sure the lakes are good for when our kids go fishing,” Herek said. “I don’t want animals or fish to suffer from pollution.”
He’s hoping that Sunday’s cleanup will make a difference. Maybe more people will appreciate the lake instead of trashing it.
Tyler and Bentley will be there helping Sunday.
“They are excited I’m getting more people than us involved,” Herek said.