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US Fish & Wildlife Service FieldNotes
YREKA FWO: Kids, Fishing and the Joys of Nature
Region 8, May 2, 2008
Fishing pals Lance Anker, 3, of Hydesville and Zach Smither, 10, of Arcata enjoy a nice morning fishing the Freshwater Lagoon in Orick, Calif. Lance and Zach fished hard all morning but the action was slow. (USFWS Photo/Matt Baun)
Fishing pals Lance Anker, 3, of Hydesville and Zach Smither, 10, of Arcata enjoy a nice morning fishing the Freshwater Lagoon in Orick, Calif. Lance and Zach fished hard all morning but the action was slow. (USFWS Photo/Matt Baun) - Photo Credit: n/a
Paul Zedonis of the Arcata FWO calls more than 130 kids together for the Take-A-Kid Fishing Day raffle at Freshwater Lagoon, Orick, Calif. The prize give-away put smiles on many young faces as more than 50 rod and reel outfits were given away courtesy of a local merchant and conservation group. (USFWS Photo/Matt Baun)
Paul Zedonis of the Arcata FWO calls more than 130 kids together for the Take-A-Kid Fishing Day raffle at Freshwater Lagoon, Orick, Calif. The prize give-away put smiles on many young faces as more than 50 rod and reel outfits were given away courtesy of a local merchant and conservation group. (USFWS Photo/Matt Baun) - Photo Credit: n/a

Matt Baun, Yreka FWO 

Reconnecting children with the outdoors is a major effort for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and that is exactly what a team of volunteers from the Arcata Fish and Wildlife Office set out to do this past weekend at Freshwater Lagoon. 

 

The lagoon is within earshot of the Pacific Ocean and is one of three that dot a small stretch of coastal highway near the northern California town of Orick.  It was the perfect setting for families to come together for a day of fishing and fun.

 

“Many youngsters seemed to have learned a valuable lesson that many older anglers realize only after many years of fishing,” said Paul Zedonis, Arcata FWO biologist and event volunteer.  “It is better to find joy not in the quantity of fish caught, but the quality of the time spent on the water.” 

 

Two fishing buddies took that lesson to heart.  Lance Anker, 3, of Hydesville, Calif., and Zach Smither, 10, of Arcata, Calif., made the most of their time by enjoying the morning sunshine and playing with each other around the water.  Of course, they kept one eye trained on their bobbers…just in case.

 

The event was spearheaded by Redwood National and State Parks and co-sponsored by the Arcata FWO, California Department of Fish and Game, Cal Trout and AmeriCorps.  In addition to Zedonis, the Arcata FWO was represented by Joe Polos, Gary Falxa and Greg Goldsmith. 

 

Anyone who took the time to walk the banks of the lagoon during the event could see that organizers were achieving their goal of getting kids excited about being outdoors.

 

Youngsters of all ages enjoyed themselves.  The most exciting thing for one older boy was not the fishing at all, but rather the sighting of a favorite insect, “Cool a Dragonfly,” they announced with much animation, and then chased after it.

 

Even newborns got into the act as they soaked up the sun from the comfort of their strollers. As the morning went on, the fishing continued.  But the kids realized that nature could offer them more even more diversions.

 

Toddlers splashed in the water, as three and four year-olds chased butterflies.  A six year-old tromped and sloshed through the mud under the approving eyes of his parents.  Older boys and girls braved the shallows and waded further out from the bank.  Finally, when the two-minute warning came for the kids to gathering near the raffle table, a young girl sneakily released her remaining supply of night crawlers into the tall grass.   

 

According to organizers, 137 youngsters registered on site for the event.  On average, each angler had 1.5 years worth of fishing experience.  Most of the kids – about 80 percent – were five years old and younger. 

 

As the kids filed through the registration, each one was handed an unofficial “junior fishing license” by the California Department of Fish and Game along with a care package of goodies courtesy of the event co-sponsors.

 

As the kids approached the lagoon, they were greeted by more volunteers. A large aquarium allowed kids to observe and learn about the native coastal cutthroat trout, while another aquarium allowed kids to handle aquatic insects like stoneflies and caddis flies.   

 

Volunteers also manned a kid’s craft table where they could cut out and make designer fish hats out of construction paper – tailored to resemble your favorite salmonid.  There was even a face painter who displayed her artwork on cheeks of all ages – infants to kids approaching the late 30s.

 

But most people came for the fishing and that they did.  Although there was much less actual catching, this fact did not seem to dampen the mood of either event organizers or the young participants.

 

Kids who needed loaner rods, bait and tackle were well supplied and were accommodated by the many volunteers from different agencies and organizations on site.  The loaner rods – about 50 in all – ended up being given away gifts at the raffle.  This was a gesture that the kids appreciated as it seemed to have made up for the slow fishing.

 

While some families made use of boats, most parents were content to back their minivans and SUVs up to the water’s edge and fish from the bank.  This also proved to be a good strategy for moms and dads who needed to keep younger brothers and sisters busy while older siblings concentrated on the serious fishing.

 

Some lucky kids did find some action on the water. Two brothers and their father reeled in a few keepers – coastal cutthroats and a couple of largemouth bass.  

 

In the end, it really didn’t matter if fish were caught.  The day belonged to the kids and they knew how to have fun and being outside had everything to do with it.   

Contact Info: Scott Flaherty, , Scott_Flaherty@fws.gov