Archive for October, 2010

Florida Youth Fishing Program Summit

Posted on October 14th, 2010 by fishflorida

(article courtesy of Bob Wattendorf, Florida Fish & Wildlife Conservation Commission)

Fishing is one way to get kids outdoors and participating in a healthy, fun activity.

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 activities.

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 Scouts.

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 outdoors.

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! (, 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.