I went to camp this weekend and I'm going back next month.
After joining the Board of Directors of Anglers For Conservation earlier last year I got very involved with the Hook Kids On Fishing program. This program is run and maintained by the AFC and funded by grants such at the Fish Florida grant. You might have seen the Fish Florida vehicle license plate before; it’s the one with the sailfish. Not to be confused with the other 23948023 vanity tags our awesome state has. Anyway, the proceeds from this license plate are used to buy rod and reel combos as well as tackle boxes. It’s with these items that organizations such as AFC is able to provide kids from all over the state with fishing gear, at no charge. Truly a great program.
At these events the kids learn about safety, knots, tackle, casting and conservation. What I’ve learned about working these events is that there are a percentage of kids that just want the new gear and want to go fishing. A percentage of kids listen and actually want to learn. The last percentage of them just want to go back home to their video games. It’s sad that we live in an age where everything is based on technology and it sucks up a huge amount of our time. However, let’s focus on the percentage of kids that wanted to learn? Where do they go? Who do they look to? What is the next step after they get their gear from a Hook Kids On Fishing program? These are the questions I asked myself last winter. It’s with answering my own questions that Tammy Wilson and I thought it would be a great idea to offer up just the program for young adults.
With the AFC behind us we put the wheels in motion and after a good amount of planning, Advanced Teen Anglers Camp (ATAC) was born. While most will tell you fishing consist of a fishing pole and some bait, we were going to help these young anglers understand what makes up the rest. With two six hour days we would help these future leaders understand the environment more so they could understand fishing better. From planting red mangroves to picking up trash to tying their first fly, we would cover it all. They would move from station to station learning more and more but we would tread lightly as not to force any one thing. There are many types of fishing and while I don’t want you telling me how to fish, I’m not going to tell you how to. It was with pride that I saw smiles this weekend. We cut some times short in order to go back and work more with individual preferences. While I expected to be one angler short the second day, all eight hung in there during this brutally hot weekend.
As I stayed busy keeping everything on schedule, the outstanding and dedicated volunteers kept the knowledge flowing. Everything went according to planned except for a comment that left me awake the first night. This camp was formed to help teens understand fishing better. There were no plans to actually go fishing, especially with the location at which we were holding the event at. I’m not one to say “No” very often and as I need to start saying it more, I beat around the bush when asked, “Are we going fishing at all?” After taking that question to bed Saturday night I came back Sunday morning by telling these young men that we will set a date before school starts again. It wasn’t a very hard decision to make. I simply took a look back to when I was a young teen and went to Karate school for all of a week and never got to break a board. It’s not going down like that as long as I’m in control. We will go fishing.
As I look back at the last 48 hours I don’t see how I made much time for my wife or me but I wouldn’t go back and do it any other way. I just spent a weekend with eight great young anglers at a brand new camp and I’m looking forward to fishing with them before the summer is up.
A very special thanks to the following people for helping make this weekend happen.
Tammy Wilson, Rodney Smith, Karen Smith, Dennis Abdelhamid, Capt Gary Brown, Tyler Brown, Richard Goode, Capt Mark Wright, Nick Sanzone, the Brevard Zoo, Cindy Pless, Bill Grady, Marc Krsek, Long Doggers, Da Kines, Harry Goode’s, Banks Lures, D.O.A. Lures, UNFAIR Lures, Shallow Addiction Magazine, Procure Scents, Keep Brevard Beautiful, JJ’s Screen Printing, Anglers For Conservation and ………..
The Marine Resources Council for letting us hold the event at the Ted Moorhead Lagoon House.
I wish nothing but the very best for these young guys that I had the opportunity of spending the weekend with. It was especially nice to have two Dads spend it with us.