Youth Fishing Clinic in St. Pete a Huge Success
Fishing keeps kids out of hot water.
It was early on Saturday morning, Oct. 4, and all the hard work and planning by volunteers had been completed. The scene was set for area youths to have a great "Saturday in the Park," learning about fishing from the Pros, getting a free Zebco rod-and-reel combo in the bargain, plus a certificate of completion when the kids finished all the teaching stations. Finally, everything was ready to host the free event for young people and their families that can't be beat – except by the weather.
This being tropical Florida, the morning weather was threatening. About 7:30 a.m. on Saturday morning, as the volunteer staff prepared to register the arriving families, ready the teaching stations and unveil the display of live aquatic animals, the sky was as dark as a Stephen King movie, with crackling thunder and lightning to boot. Nobody wanted a wash-out, especially with all the expectant youths that would soon be lining up.
We were at Spa Beach Park in St. Pete, located on the waterfront, a perfect spot to facilitate hands-on teaching to kids who want to learn the ins-and-outs of fishing in Florida. It is also a great spot – right on the water -- to have the kids catch fish using their newly acquired skills.
The growing crowd waited, looking skyward. Everyone kept their fingers crossed in supplication to the 'gods of good weather,' and then ... the gods of good weather actually heard us! At exactly 8:50 a.m., the skies started to rapidly clear up, and by 10 a.m., the sun was shining brightly and the dark clouds had swung out to the ocean. Yeah! The festivities were underway!
After signing up at the registration table, the excited young attendees began visiting each of the learning stations. Each booth was manned by professionals such as boat Captains, field anglers and other experienced teachers, and were set up to present fishing topics such as: Identification of Fish Species; Fish Habitats (where fish live); Conservation and Protection of Fish; How to Release a Fish; Tackle Subjects such as: How to Tie Fishing Knots, How to Cast, Using Live and Artificial Bait, and other key subjects about fishing. The instructors were a coalition of professionals from the Florida Fish and Wildlife Commission (FWC), The Online Fisherman, and other experienced volunteers.
To help young anglers understand the importance of what we call "habitat," the people from the FWC had a tank set up with Hermit crabs, Horseshoe crabs, Snails, fiddler crabs and other crustaceans. They showed coral, sea grasses, and other marine growth, so young anglers could understand the importance of habitat and the chain-of-life that ensures the survival of all living things. The main message at that station was: "No Habitat Equals No Fish." In addition, the overall message that ran throughout the stations was, "All of Us" are responsible for the conservation of marine animals and habitats. The youths had the opportunity to touch live marine animals and learn how they interact with Florida's marine habitats.
Let's All Go Fishing!
Upon completion of all the Teaching Stations, every youth who completed the learning circuit received an official Certificate and a FREE fishing rod and reel combo by Zebco.
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In groups of 10, the youths gathered on the large fields to practice casting prior to fishing in the water. Using the cool push-button rods and reels supplied by Visit Florida, the kids took to casting like a rabbit to running. You would be amazed at how fast they learned, casting into Hula-Hoops as targets.
Soon, they were off and running with their new rods, a rigged, baited circle hook and a split shot. For bait, the youngsters were supplied with all the shrimp and squid they could use donated by Mastry's Bait and Tackle. To complete the picture, chum blocks were donated by Aylesworth's Bait & Tackle, another St. Pete mainstay of the fishing world.
Within an hour, using their new knowledge, almost every youth caught some fish. Participants caught a variety of species including pinfish, pigfish, puffer fish, cow-fish, lizardfish, a leatherjacket and one lucky youth even caught a shark!
Bobby Kindle Jr., the 10-year old son of Bobby and Cathy Kindle of Clearwater, was fishing near the seawall when he caught a Mangrove snapper using shrimp as bait.
"The instructors showed me how to put the shrimp on the circle hook, and how to cast the bait," said Bobby Jr. "At first, I lost three pieces of bait, but I felt some tugs on the line, so I knew there were fish out there. The fourth piece of shrimp was in the water for only about ten seconds when I felt the line pull really hard and I started reeling like crazy. A minute later, we saw the snapper jump from the water and he was real close by the seawall, and that's when my dad grabbed the end of the line and just yanked and the fish came flying up and landed on the ground. It was pretty funny."
Bobby Jr. kept his first Mangrove snapper, also called a "mango," and put it in a cooler with ice that his father had brought along. Bobby Sr. said they were going to grill it up that night, and everyone could have a taste (and what a delicious taste that is!). Bobby Jr. was allowed to keep his Mangrove snapper because it was of a legal size and is a species that currently has no "closed season," meaning you are legally allowed to catch "mangos" year-round and take them home. However, the open and closed seasons for each species will change from time-to-time depending on population assessments, and anglers are responsible to be aware of these changes.
Bobby Jr.'s Mangrove snapper, also called a gray snapper, is one of many species of snapper including: Red, black, wenchman, cubera, gray, lane, mutton, schoolmaster, vermilion, yellowtail and others. Snappers are considered to be some of the tastiest fish in the sea.
Of note, The FWC, along with other regulatory bodies, control how many of each species of fish may be taken from the water during various times of the year. Certain species, such as Red Snapper and Snook, have very restrictive limits due to past periods of overfishing, winter freezes and other factors that reduced the population of these species of fish. As a responsible young angler, part of being a good steward of the ocean and the Gulf is learning the rules regarding which species of fish can be caught at certain times of the year, and knowing the size limits and "bag" limits (how many fish can be taken home each day) for each species. You can learn about these limits by visiting the FWC Website.
Watch for Coming Events
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We would like to thank all of you who attended the Kid's Fishing Clinic on Oct. 4th.
Special thanks go out to all the volunteers who made it such a great day, all of the people at the FWC, and an extra big thank you to Aylesworth's Bait & Tackle for providing the chum for the fishing event. Aylesworth's is a second-generation Florida company founded in 1944. They are located in St. Petersburg and specialize in frozen natural baits, rigged specialty baits, world famous chums, fish attractants and related merchandise. 1295 28th St. S. (727) 327-8608.
Another big thanks to Mastry's Bait & Tackle for providing us with bait for the event. The guys at Mastry's Bait & Tackle have been providing Bait, Tackle and Fresh Local Seafood for nearly 40 years. Their store is located at 1700 4th Street South, just south of downtown St. Petersburg. For those days when the "bite isn't on," get freshly caught local seafood at Mastry's.
*Click Arrows or Buttons to see Slide Show Below*
Did everyone enjoy the event? We think so. Just look at the slide shows and see for yourself!
Don't forget -- "Fishing Keeps Kids Out of Hot Water."
The Staff at The Online Fisherman