There are very few things in life that are more precious than time spent with children. The joy that comes when you watch them accomplish a task on their own for the first time is invaluable. Taking a child fishing is a great way to spend this type of quality time with them and to watch them grow and learn. Fishing can be an easy and inexpensive hobby to share with children, even for those anglers who are not the most skilled or knowledgeable.
I began fishing Maine's lakes and streams when I was about five years old. Some of my most cherished memories from childhood include times spent with my dad at a nearby beaver pond swatting away black flies and catching brook trout or braving the cold while ice fishing on Swan Lake. Those fishing trips not only allowed me to learn and bond with my father, but they also taught me to appreciate and value the outdoors. Learning to fish sparked my interest in other outdoor activities, and I quickly learned to be self-reliant and eventually grew up to become an ethical and responsible sportsman. I am grateful to have had these experiences as a child. As the Activities Coordinator for the Maine Department of Inland Fisheries & Wildlife I am now able to take those experiences and share them with Maine's youth and families.
Hooked on Fishing - Not on Drugs
It seems strange that two such unrelated subjects could possibly work together but they actually combine quite well and create a very effective program to educate youth. It's really about finding the means to show them positive alternatives that can help them overcome some of the issues that may lead them to drug use. Studies have shown that some of the reasons youth turn to drugs include boredom, low self-esteem, inadequate problem-solving skills or peer pressure. Taking children fishing and teaching them a healthy, productive and life-long hobby has proven to be an effective way to overcome some of these causes.
The Hooked on Fishing – Not on Drugs program is utilized in Maine by over one hundred trained volunteer instructors. The program is used by teachers, boy scout and girl scout leaders, parents, sporting clubs, law enforcement officers and many others. The program has even been used this past winter in conjunction with ice fishing derbies, such as the FET, Inc Annual Ice Fishing Derby on Little Ossipee Lake and the Phippsburg Sportsman's Association Annual Ice Fishing Derby on Winnegance Pond. However, there are youth fishing derbies, tournaments, "learn to fish" days and family events planned by sporting clubs, volunteer groups, schools, camps and by the Department of Inland Fisheries & Wildlife throughout the year. With the help of countless volunteers these events introduce Maine's youth to the sport of angling and teaches them to responsibly utilize Maine's natural resources.
The four components of the Hooked on Fishing – Not on Drugs program include angling skills, fish biology, human dimensions and life skills development. Combining these four components into one powerful package makes the Hooked on Fishing – Not on Drugs program unique, effective and truly successful. Get on board and take your children fishing today.
If you are interested in learning more about the Hooked on Fishing-Not on Drugs program in Maine or if you would like to become a trained volunteer instructor, log on to www.mefishwildlife.com and click on the education link. You can also contact me directly at (207) 287-8069 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
For further information about the Future Fisherman Foundation log onto www.futurefisherman.org.
Tips for Parents
Fishing with your children can be very rewarding and educational. Here are some tips for taking them along.
Be relaxed: As you head out the door, leave behind the tension and take along a smile, an open mind, and a lot of patience.
Make it fun: Above all else, make the fishing trip fun and safe. Don't measure the success of the trip by the number or size of fish caught. Make the trip successful simply by having a fun, safe time outdoors. Praise children for their patience and cooperation.
Make it a shore thing: Teaching children to fish from shore has some important advantages. It provides them more opportunity to go on their own or with friends when they are old enough. Give the first few lessons at a local park, farm pond, or a lake with a dock or gentle shoreline where children can run and play when their attention span runs short. If and when you progress to a boat, be sure to have the proper safety equipment for you and your youngster.
Fish for little fish: Catching fish is important; size isn't. Start new anglers off on species that are plentiful and more easily caught. Popular fish for beginners are sunfish or perch. Most kids prefer to catch lots of fish versus big fish. Larger fish can be sought when the child has developed basic fishing skills.
Start with the basics: Begin with simple equipment and bait. Use simple spincasting equipment, a bobber and a hook with live bait, as it will work well for a variety of fish species. Be sure the equipment your child uses is in good working order to avoid any unnecessary frustration.
Teach skills: People, regardless of their age, enjoy fishing more when they are in control and have the ability to do it themselves. Resist the temptation to do things for your children. If you are using live bait, teach them how to put it on the hook themselves. Teach them how to tie their hook onto their line and how to cast. On future trips, help them develop these skills and their self-esteem, as they begin to master them.
For more tips or a copy of the Parent's Guide to Hooked on Fishing – Not on Drugs contact Emily Jones at (207) 287-8069.
Downeast Stream Surveys
This summer the fisheries staff in the Jonesboro office has been putting forth a massive effort to survey as many brooks and streams as possible in our region. With many of these streams, we have no documented information about habitat, fish species present, or if any barriers to fish passage exist (perched culverts, dams, etc.) We are also interested in documenting which streams have brook trout populations. Last week, Josh Kuester (our Work-Study Summer Assistant) and I surveyed eight streams in the Jonesboro area. Of those eight, six held multiple age classes of wild brook trout. Most of these streams were between four and twelve feet wide and only a foot or two deep in the deepest spots. The majority of the brook trout we have been finding are young of the year fish that emerged from the gravel this spring. Often we find fish around four to six inches and occasionally we will find fish up to eight or nine inches in length.
The most valuable tool that fisheries biologists utilize when conducting stream surveys is electrofishing. In simple terms the electrofishing unit sends a current of direct current electricity through the water that momentarily stuns any fish within range (a few feet around the electrode). The pulse rate at which this current travels can be set and this pulsing causes any fish to rapidly swim toward the unit where they can be netted out of the water. The fish recover quickly and after all necessary biological information is collected, they are released back into the water. For work in small streams the electrofishing unit that is used is a backpack unit. The operator wears the unit on his/her back and is joined by a netter who is responsible for scooping up all of the fish that enter the electrical field. If we were to simply stand on the bank and look into the water, we would never see the majority of fish present. If we were to set nets or minnow traps it would take a number of days to obtain fish and we would miss many fish. With electrofishing we can sample a section of a couple hundred feet, through various habitat types, in a short amount of time. We can generally be in and out of a stream in two hours and that includes collecting data from any fish we catch, performing culvert assessments, and performing water quality analysis.
People may question why we need to invest this much time and energy into surveying these little, overgrown, essentially "un-fishable" streams. Well, in most cases these streams are literally tiny natural brook trout hatcheries. They are important because they contain spawning habitat, riffle areas for juveniles, and cold-water refuge areas. Many of these streams are tributaries furnishing trout to larger rivers or streams, or even dump directly into the ocean and may be sites where Sea-Run brook trout contribute to the resident population in the stream.
As water temperatures continue to increase through the summer, brook trout will likely be harder for us to find. They will be holding up in cold-water areas or in deep channels and some may eventually die if temperatures become too high and remain high for too long.
There are still plenty of ways to get out and enjoy our Maine waters. So take advantage of this beautiful weather while we have it!
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