We're perched on the edge of another summer, and while that surely means Little League games and days at the pool, it also brings an opportunity to get kids outside and involved in another activity: fishing.
Fishing is, to use a well-oiled and perhaps inappropriate phrase, an odd duck. Kids are either aware of it as a sport - having caught the Bassmasters on TV - or they think it's something Tom Sawyer did in a book. If they didn't grow up around water, they may not know much about it at all. Urban fishing initiatives, however, are helping introduce kids to fishing, and are growing in popularity. Here in Baltimore, Patterson Park's rec staff holds catch-and-release Family Fun Fishing Nights every Thursday. They use loaner poles to teach local city kids the fine arts of baiting a hook, casting a line - and practicing patience. And ultimately, they teach kids to reel 'em in.
No words can adequately transcribe the expression on the face of a kid who for the first time, feels the erratic, jerking tug and realizes there's a fish on the other end of the line. It's a moment that stamps itself in memory forever. If the next generation is really lucky, that kid will want to pass the moment on.
Take Me Fishing is a national campaign started by the Recreational Boating and Fishing Foundation that encourages youngsters to learn their way around the sport. Just as important, it raises awareness of the importance of protecting and conserving America's waterways. The site includes information on types of fish and what bait to use, tips for successful fishing, maps of where the fish are biting, how to get a fishing license and more.
As we move into the warm months and start exploring ideas for keeping kids occupied in rec day camps, an afternoon of fishing could be a winner. If the fish don't cooperate by biting right away, it's a good opportunity to talk about things like the local ecosystem and the importance of keeping it clean. If and when the fish do get down to business, there are plenty of teachable moments about legal size and weight limits, and how to unhook a fish and throw it back into the water safely. Best of all, landing that first fish is something a Wii can never replicate.