Take A Kid Fishing! a fun family event

This determined little angler was very happy to land a bluegill at the Aquatic Resources Education Center pond near Smyrna. (Outdoor Delaware/Mary Rivera)

This determined little angler was very happy to land a bluegill at the Aquatic Resources Education Center pond near Smyrna. (Outdoor Delaware/Mary Rivera)

On a picture perfect summer morning, at the Aquatic Resources Education Center near Smyrna, several cars pulled into the parking lot.

Soon, the picnic pavilion was filled with children and parents eager to try out what is, for them, a new activity — fishing.

They were there to take part in a free Take A Kid Fishing! event sponsored by the Division of Fish and  Wildlife’s Aquatic Education Program. An enthusiastic team of staff and volunteers was on hand to teach the families about fishing, and to provide encouragement and support as they learn.

The kids got busy creating colorful t-shirts using paint and realistic fish models. Then they were briefed on interesting facts about fish and how to use simple knots to tie on their hooks.  After a session on fishing skills and safety, the youngsters were ready to learn to cast. They moved to a nearby lawn, dotted with dozens of brightly colored plastic fish targets that were perfect for casting practice.

Once they were taught the basics, the kids and their families were eager to wet a line and try the real thing. They hurried over to the Aquatic Resources Education Center fishing ponds to test their casting skills, using bait and tackle provided by the division.

With a little luck it wasn’t long before the budding anglers made their first catch. With that, it was time to grab the camera to snap a picture of a brand new angler, grinning ear to ear, with a little sunny or maybe even a largemouth bass on the line.

About Take A Kid Fishing!

Parents and grandparents who attend Take A Kid Fishing! events enjoy the chance to spend time outdoors with their families as they learn a new skill. Allison Banbury brought her sons, Will and Alec, to the Take A Kid Fishing! program last spring.

She was looking for wholesome and fun outdoor activities to enjoy with them on weekends. The boys were surprised at how much fun it was. They appreciated having so much help as they fished and they particularly enjoyed casting practice with the fish targets. Will and Alec are still wearing the fish print T-shirts they created and they hope to come back this summer to learn more about fishing.

Other parents who participated were equally enthusiastic, with comments such as: “We treasure this program and intend to participate for many years to come. A very kid-friendly, empathetic team supported my son and the other children quite well.” And, “We had a wonderful time, thank you so much. It was very well organized. Both of our kids have already proudly shown off their fish print shirts they made! Our six-year-old really enjoyed the casting practice as well as actual fishing.”

Take A Kid Fishing! events take place during spring and summer at several ponds throughout the state, providing a fun, relaxed setting for participants to master the basics and to become familiar with Delaware’s fishing regulations and license requirements.

Youth Fishing Tournament

On the first Saturday in June each year, hundreds of kids come out to enjoy fishing, prizes and hot dogs at the annual Youth Fishing Tournament hosted by the officers of the Delaware Division of Fish and Wildlife Natural Resources Police.

The tournament was established to introduce young people to the sport of fishing and to teach the catch-and-release approach to conservation. The event offers an opportunity to take great pictures to accompany those “big fish” stories.

Prizes are awarded in each of three age groups: 4-7, 8-11 and 12-15. The tournament is free and open to the public.

The first Youth Fishing Tournament was held in 1986 and it has since become an annual tradition for Fish and Wildlife officers. The officers are proud that 2016 will be the 30th anniversary of the tournament.

Officers in each county work hard to prepare for the event, seeking donations and shopping for door prizes and giveaways for all children who participate.  Officers’ families also volunteer for tournament day, helping with door prizes, grilling hot dogs, registering participants and just enjoying the day, adding to the family atmosphere of the tournament.

One of the great aspects of the Youth Fishing Tournament is that it has also become a tradition for those who take part. “One of the greatest parts of the Youth Fishing Tournament is seeing the same families come back each year,” said Sgt. Richard Blaasch of the Fish and Wildlife Natural Resources Police. Sgt. Blaasch has had the chance to meet and influence hundreds of kids through his involvement with the tournament in New Castle County for the past 22 years.

“I have seen the kids as they grow up and continue to enjoy the sport of fishing. We have had children in the tournament who have returned each year and participated in all of the age groups,” Sgt. Blaasch said, adding that even after participants are too old to participate, they still return to volunteer their time to support the event.

The Youth Fishing Tournament occurs at one pond in each county: Lums Pond in New Castle County, Wyoming Pond in Kent County and Ingrams Pond in Sussex County. The fishing tournament is a free event, although participants will need to bring their own fishing equipment and bait. Basic equipment is all that is needed.

Officers and staff are always happy to help throughout the event and offer helpful tips and pointers to the kids and their parents.

The 2016 Youth Fishing Tournament will take place on Saturday, June 4. The tournament is held in conjunction with National Fishing and Boating Week from June 4-12. On June 4 and 5, the division will waive the requirement for an adult fishing license to mark the celebration. Children under 16 do not need a fishing license at any time.

Mary Rivera is a Division of Fish and Wildlife aquatic education trainer/educator. Sgt. John McDerby is the Division’s enforcement public information officer and boating education coordinator.

This article was originally published in Outdoor Delaware magazine.

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