Florida Fishing Academy Helping Floridian Kids to Stay Out of Trouble

    By Terry Gibson

    Richard Brochu understands the inspirational power that fishing and an intimacy with Florida's waters can provide. In 2006, they inspired Brochu, a Boynton Beach resident, to found the Florida Fishing Academy, which teaches at-risk kids fishing and positive life skills as an alternative to truancy, crime and drugs.

    The Florida Fishing Academy's motto is: Give a child a fish, feed him for a day; teach him to fish, feed him for a lifetime; teach him ethical angling and protect his ability to fish for generations to come.

    That's noble. But recently Brochu and his team learned some limitations of their outreach when they had to turn away a handicapped child from the Make-a-Wish program because their boats were not wheel-chair accessible.

    Brochu got on the horn, sharpened his grant-writing pencil and found the materials and means to build an out-sized catamaran that can accommodate handicapped anglers. He made two trips to Long Island, N.Y., to take delivery of the hulls. He is waiting for the cool, dry weather of winter to finish the fiberglass work, which he does himself.

    The 49-passenger boat will have a ramp for handicap access, rounded gunnels to protect the knees of people in wheelchairs, and a handicapped-accessible bathroom. They don't ever want to have to turn anyone away again. And Brochu plans on offering fishing and snorkeling trips to disabled kids and handicapped veterans.

    To raise environmental awareness and funds for their camps, the Florida non-profit organization for at-risk kids offers fishing charters, cruises, kayak tours and snorkeling trips. The charter fishing trips run out of the Riviera Beach Marina. The kids camps are jam-packed with learning opportunities, ranging from fishing basics to fish dissection for marine research.