Kids to learn the magic of fishing


Mar 11, 2001
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May 8, 2002

Charlie Farmer, Springfield  News Leader

Kids to learn the magic of fishing

“I envy not him that eats better meat than I do, nor him that is richer, or that wears better clothes than I do; I envy nobody but him only that catches more fish than I do.”

— from “The Compleat Angler” by Izaak Walton, first published in 1653.

The magic of sport fishing has charmed adults and kids for ages.

Sitting on the bank or riding in a boat, there is nothing better to soothe the senses and calm the soul. For kids who fish, the experience is magical and long lasting.

More kids will learn what that experience feels like in the Missouri Sportfishing Program scheduled to start this summer.

The program, conducted by Missouri 4-H and University Outreach and Extension, provides a curriculum designed to develop life skills in youngsters ages 8-18 while educating them to exercise leadership and support for responsible recreational fishing and stewardship of aquatic resources.

“Getting youth excited about fishing is essential, and teaching them is something 4-H does very well,” said David Burton, civic communication specialist at University Outreach and Extension in Springfield.

“This is a new program to Missouri 4-H but 4-H youth development specialists believe it will become the area’s most popular program, ahead of horse riding, with the right volunteers.”

“This is a non-competitive program,” said Dale Cox, 4-H youth development specialist in Polk County. “It’s a lot about ethics. It’s a great setting for kids. We would certainly welcome older adults as volunteers for this fishing program. We also hope some of the bass clubs in the area will take part in helping the program.”

Officials with the program, which also is sponsored by Bass Pro Shops and the Missouri 4-H Foundation, will conduct training workshops with the goal of providing 40 volunteer leaders who will then conduct a minimum of six group sessions per year with the youngsters.

“The sport fishing training program is designed to develop adult and teen volunteers who will work with, and mentor, youth through the Missouri 4-H Sportfishing project,” said Byron Morrison, 4-H youth development specialist.

The basic curriculum is divided into four knowledge or skill areas: tackle craft, angling skills, people, fish and aquatic ecology.

During the training workshops, participants will receive intensive instruction in two of the four knowledge areas, learn successful strategies for working with youth, and study liability and risk management procedures.

Cox said the program is open to both boys and girls, kids with disabilities, and youth groups.

In a pilot project in March, four specialists from Project Fish in Michigan traveled to Mount Vernon to train 15 volunteer leaders for the Missouri program.

Jeannie Moreno, a 4-H youth education assistant in Webster County, took the training and enjoyed it immensely, even though she had to cut her “long fingernails” to make some of the fishing projects.

“My nails were in the way,” Moreno said, “especially when working on a homemade pop-can fishing reel and line. And then we started tying flies and making lures. It was worth it, though, to learn the craft of fishing.”

Moreno was impressed with her teachers from Michigan.

“They emphasized fishing ethics,” she said. “They talked about a pond with lots of fish in it. But the pond was private and there was a ‘no trespassing’ sign. Some people would sneak in and fish.

“What if your father said it would be all right to do that? What would you do?

“The answer, of course, is do not trespass on private property.”

There also were lessons on gutting and cleaning fish at the pilot project, and participants had fun tying flies.

Some said maybe the kids will get so good at it, they can sell their flies to trout anglers.

As for Jeannie Moreno’s fingernails, they will grow back in time. Or maybe she will be catching too many fish to care.

“University Outreach and Extension offers programs that help improve people’s lives. That is why outreach and extension is supportive of 4-H and its programs like sportfishing,” Burton said.

“Our research says that 4-H does a great job of youth development, and in doing so helps to improve the lives of young people.

“The sportfishing program in southwest Missouri is exciting. We think it has the potential to be one of the biggest areas of interest.

“And the program does so much more than teach a youngster how to fish.”

People wanting more information about the Missouri Sportfishing Program can call University Outreach and Extension at (417) 862-9284, ext. 16.

Information also can be obtained by writing to: University Outreach and Extension, 833 Boonville, Springfield, MO 65801.

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