Florida Youth Fishing Program Summit
Fish Busters' Bulletin
Friday, October 08, 2010
Media contact: Bob Wattendorf
A recent Florida Youth Fishing Program Summit
attracted a wide diversity of folks who are committed to teaching
young people about recreational fishing. A common theme emerged:
Recreational fishing is fun and gets young people outdoors to
engage in a healthy, lifelong activity that enhances their quality
of life and encourages them to become conservation stewards. And
there are plenty of programs out there to encourage fishing
Karen Blyler, with the Florida 4-H Youth
Development Program, took the lead in spearheading the summit. She
pulled together sponsors, including Fish Florida and Florida Sea
Grant, to bring together dozens of individuals who are actively
involved not only in teaching young Floridians how to fish, but
also in guiding them as mentors in the many positive lifestyle
benefits that lifelong anglers enjoy. Fishing is a gateway
experience that connects people of all ages to our natural heritage
and many of our core values as a society.
Many organizations shared information on programs
that show youths the benefits of fishing. Florida Sea Grant ensures
sustainable fisheries and teaches about the need for proper
catch-and-release. County Sea Grant agents around the state have
kits designed to help in this effort.
Fishing for Success is a program conducted
primarily on the University of Florida campus in Gainesville. It
began after a request from the local sheriff's office to offer a
non-contact outdoor sports activity that provides mentoring and
career counseling to underprivileged youths.
Fish Florida is a non-profit organization that uses
funds collected from the extra fees on the purchase of the sailfish
specialty tag. These funds are used for fishing education grants
and scholarships and provide free tackle for youth participants in
outreach programs across Florida.
The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation
Commission's (FWC) fisheries education and outreach programs, both
freshwater and saltwater, hold numerous clinics and
train-the-trainer sessions for Hooked on Fishing - Not on Drugs
throughout the year. The saltwater fishing clinic protocol was one
of the most highly rated resources identified by participants,
along with the Kids Fishing Activity book published by the FWC.
Capt. Wayne Conn, owner of the Reward Fishing
Fleet, is passionate about giving youths an opportunity to enjoy
fishing from his charter boat, where he can take 50 kids and 20
mentors at a time. MOTE sponsors "Kids Cup," a fishing tournament
to evaluate how well red drum are surviving stock-enhancement
efforts by the FWC. NOAA allows anglers to check out rods and reels
and encourages monofilament recycling. NOAA is also working on a
new ethical angling program.
The Florida Fishing Academy is a non-profit
organization that provides fishing-related programs in 17 schools.
The Youth Environmental Alliance, which teaches a similar
after-school course, has created its own materials as well. The
Environmental Conservation Organization provides supplemental
courses in life sciences for schools and fishing clinics for Boy
The Mahogany Youth Corporation teaches angling
skills, positive aspirations and goal-setting. The classes
focus on helping parents overcome fears of the water and the
Pete Della Ratta, a physical education teacher from
Woodlawn Beach Middle School, showed participants how fishing can
be incorporated into school programs. His efforts allowed 380
students to become involved in a fully integrated program centered
on recreational fishing and conservation.
National Teen Anglers is a program that spun off
from a local FWC fisheries outreach effort in Kissimmee. They now
have a 12-part curriculum and chapters in six states that create
after-school or club fishing teams for 12-20 year olds and
encourage scholarship and career development.
Tommy Thompson, Executive Director of the Florida
Outdoor Writers Association, leverages kids' enthusiasm for fishing
to lead youths into photojournalism careers. Rodney Smith, founder
of Anglers for Conservation, received the Bass Pro Shops'
Pass-it-On Award for teaching kids through fishing about applied
science and conservation.
As the executive chair of Get Outdoors Florida! (www.GetOutdoorsFlorida.org), I am proud to be
involved with projects that bring together partners who provide a
diversity of active, nature-based recreational opportunities with
the goal of helping more youths lead happier, healthier and smarter
lifestyles. We cast a broad net, using partners' outreach events
around the state and then guiding participants into more in-depth
educational opportunities, such as camps, that can be provided via
the evolving Florida Youth Conservation Center Network.
With all the energy and synergism coming from this
group, it is no wonder we decided to stay in touch and continue
developing and refining programs to engage youths in a lifetime of
responsible recreational fishing.