Best in Kids' Fishing Biz

By: Terry Gibson


It’s official. The state of Florida offers the best aquatic education program in the country.

On Nov. 21, 2013, the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) earned the top prize for a Federal Aid in Sport Fish Restoration in a nationwide competition administered by the American Fisheries Society (AFS).

Mike Stone of the AFS presented the 2013 Sport Fish Restoration Outstanding Project Award for aquatic education to the FWC, at its meeting in Weston, because of the FWC’s Fishing and Basic Boating Skills Camp program.

In presenting the award, Stone said that, “Florida’s Fish Camp program exemplifies the professional, science-informed approach to fisheries education that effectively reaches the public, especially our youth, who are so critical to the future of fish and wildlife conservation.”

This award is a really big deal. The American Fisheries Society is the world’s oldest and largest organization dedicated to the fisheries profession and resources.

FWC Chairman Dick Corbett stated that, “The FWC understands that the future of our state’s fish and wildlife resources depends on current and future generations caring enough about the resources to be committed to their care.” “We greatly appreciate the AFS recognizing Florida’s wise use of these critical Sport Fish Restoration funds to promote conservation.”

The Sport Fish Restoration Program began in 1950 and uses fees paid by the industry on fishing tackle and other fees paid on pleasure boats and boat fuel sales to match state conservation agency funding. Florida received nearly $12 million in 2012.

The Fish Camp program was developed largely by Rae Waddell, director of the Florida Youth Conservation Centers in 2000, at the FWC’s Joe Budd Aquatic Education Center outside of Tallahassee.

The FWC has expanded the program, from one location with the potential to reach 80 children, to 14 locations across the state that can reach 900 children.

FWC appreciates the enthusiastic cooperation and support of organizations and agencies, including the Guy Harvey Oceans Foundation, which enabled expansion of the Fish Camp model to new locations offering saltwater fishing.

For more information on the fishing camps and other youth-oriented outdoor recreation, click here.

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