There’s an old saying. If you want to feed a kid lunch, buy them a fish sandwich. If you want to teach them how to feed themselves, show them how to catch a fish. Well, maybe it doesn’t go exactly like that, but you get the point.
Fishing is great for kids. It's a hobby they can do for the rest of their lives. It also teaches them to respect and protect Florida’s fragile marine environment.
Nobody knows more about the value of the state’s natural resources than the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, which is hosting a Kids’ Fishing Clinic in Crystal River on Feb. 22.
The free event, geared for children between the ages of 5 and 15, will take place from 9 a.m. to 12 p.m. at the Fort Island Trail Park, 12073 W. Fort Island Trail.
Advance registration is required. To register, call 352-527-7540.
This event is a photo catch-and-release activity. An adult must accompany all participants.
The clinic, one of dozens held around the state each year, helps youngsters learn about environmental stewardship and fishing ethics, as well as a variety of angling skills. But while they will go home with some practical skills, it is the intangibles that will pay big dividends for future generations -- for every child who learns how to fish learns how to become a steward of the environment.
Fishing equipment and bait will be provided for kids to use during the clinic, but organizers encourage children who own fishing tackle to bring it. A limited number of rods and reels will be given away to participants upon completion of the clinic.
If you can’t make the Crystal River clinic, take a kid fishing this weekend. The trick to having a successful fishing trip is to make sure your kids catch fish. So stack the odds in your favor: hang out a couple of chum bags and they are guaranteed to at least catch some pinfish. Pick bait that is durable, such as squid. It will stay on the hook longer.
When it comes to fishing poles, stay away from the ones covered with cartoon characters. They might work in a pond, but if you use them on Florida’s grass flats, they will freeze up the minute they come in contact with salt water.
Safety is another big concern. It seems that every time I get my kids near a puddle, pond, lake, ocean or mud pit, one of them “accidentally” falls in. That's why it's a good idea to make sure your little ones wear a personal flotation device.