I find myself in a quandary. About two years ago I had my first encounter with the anti-fishing community. It was that day that an activist was born. Since then I have met many other people who feel that fundamentally sport fishing is torture. In the nations of Germany and Sweden, catch & release - the necessary cornerstone of attaining true sustainability in our recreational fisheries - is illegal. So what is my quandary? Why do I feel myself torn between what is defined as "The Environmental Left" and a gathering of children being taught to fish by truly dedicated and proven anglers? I have met an environmentalist we could all learn a lesson from. And the event we're talking about, although held on the same day the world brought us Karl Marx, is one all of us should consider supporting. The site and the team of us responsible for making it wake up every morning are doing exactly that: supporting Captain Rodney Smith and his first annual Fish Earth Day.
Captain Rodney spent his life growing up and fishing rural Florida. Him and his wife Karen have spent a great deal of their lives and their success on teaching kids to fish. Passing fishing on to generations that will do the same when we're long gone. Join us on Fish Earth Day to meet the captain and share the sharing!!!
Before I go any further, TheOnlineFisherman.com supporting Fish Earth Day goes far beyond any politics. At this point in my life, catching fish isn't what it's all about anymore. What really gets me going, and what really turns me on is teaching others how to fish. Whether it's adults or kids, teaching is something special to me. I realize that teaching is all I will really leave. I can leave things made of stone, gold or crap, but what I leave in a kid that I taught to catch a fish with cane pole is something that will never go away. That something is inside Rodney Smith, the guy behind this event. It's something that was put there by somebody else, and put there on purpose. That's what I walk away with. And that is what's really the most important thing anyone can do for our beautiful and beloved sport.
The sessions will start early, and will include a variety of information-packed and kid-friendly discussions about:
- Casting: how to reach the fish and do it accurately. Children just love to cast, and the first eighty will get free rods and reels!
- Conservation: keeping our environment clean is something all of us know the importance of; this session will impart the importrance of protecting our fragile environment to the children that are destined to inherit it.
- Fishing safety: this is something we stress here at TheOnlineFisherman.com, and that Captain Rodney and all of us at the Florida Outdoor Writers Association try to teach others. The event will teach our children and even us more ways to stay safe when we are out fishing.
- Catch & Release tactics: harvestime and enjoying the fish we catch is a wonderful part of our sport, but we have a responsibility to safely release all those not destined for our table. Both parents and their children will learn the best ways to gently release those fish so they can live to make more little fish.
The schedule is chock-full of fun for the kids and even the adults that bring them! And the things they learn will help keep our sport alive.
Don't get me wrong. I have not finished hunting. There are peacock bass to be caught. And toothy things in Africa they show on reality tv. And above all, my dream of fly fishing for trout in Tasmania. There are waters there holding trout that have never seen a well-tied nymph. And for some reason, I think a lot about fishing alone. Streams seem particular attractive now. But that's for another story...
When we decided to write an article about Fish Earth Day, I couldn't write it well without finding out more about the guy behind it. A guy named Rodney Smith. Rodney started a magazine we all know and love, called Coastal Angler. A regular in every tackle shop from here to San Diego, the publication delivers instructional content common to all of us (from knots to anchoring a boat property) mixed with work from regional contributors like guides and tackle shops. On top of it all are regular articles from powerhouses like our friend Mark Sosen. Talking to Rodney about teaching kids to fish brought out that strange invisible thing we plant in their still-growing minds, and it's at the heart of this event called Fish Earth Day.
I asked Rodney who had passed that spark onto him, and what he remembered about fishing as a kid. "My mom and Grandmother." was the answer. A lot of guys I talk to were introduced to fishing by the primary woman in their Ives, not the guys. It is something I always find interesting. For me it was my uncle Eddie.
Rodney went on: "I barely recall fishing the eastern edge of Little Garden Lake in Odessa. I remember a couple of small bass at my side hanging on a makeshift stringer." I love this part of my job as a writer; it makes me remember little me, blue crabs crawling all over the station wagon because me and my brother knocked over the basket full of them playing where we shouldn't.
Learning to Fish; Hook Kids on Fishing
Something that really interested me when I found out about Rodney's commitment to teaching kids about fishing was what motivated him; where did the idea come from? I know what it takes to formally train people, which is exactly what he is doing - educating people in formal environments. It might be happening outside, but they are classrooms.
His answer to my question was interesting. It had to do with success. When I met Rodney I told him he was my hero. The comment was for a good reason. My wife and me are successful educational publishers. It isn't easy. I know the blood and sweat that had to have been put into something like Coastal Angler. That thing is serious, man. You do not keep a magazine like that alive for ten years much less 20 without having felt some level of success. And to Rodney and his wife Karen, that success meant giving back to our community.
"Karen and me were driving east over the Indian River Lagoon (a fishery worth knowing!) when we just decided to give something we had gained to our community. We felt it was important to teach the sustainability of our sport, and the importance of fishing and boating."
The sustainability aspect of our sport was a natural to Smith; he still has an as-yet unpublished book called "Embracing Mother Nature". The book is about growing up in rural Florida, and is rich with Rodney's love for both the environment and the role of recreational fishing in our lives.
"We raised four anglers, Gary. We believe that introducing fishing to kids and their parents is a critical step in keeping recreational fishing viable. Over the many years I have fished, I had been lucky to have introduced many individuals to the sport. Teaching comes natural to some people; teaching fishing comes natural to me."
For a chance to help Captain Rodney Smith and a bunch of us from behind the scenes at TheOnlineFisherman.com, make sure you meet us on April 21st in Tarpon Springs to teach some kids to fish!
You might just stick that magic into a few of them....
Fish Earth Day Schedule
There are several Fish Earth Day events held on the same days in different areas. Provided are all of the dates and times for Fish Earth Day :
Hobe Sound Fish Earth Day; Hook Kids on Fishing Program
Jacksonville Fish Earth Day; Hook Kids on Fishing Program
Orlando Fish Earth Day; Hook Kids on Fishing Program
Punta Gorda Fish Earth Day; Hook Kids on Fishing Program
Sebastian Fish Earth Day; Hook Kids on Fishing Program
Tarpon Springs Fish Earth Day; Hook Kids on Fishing Program
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