Tag Archives: urban fishing

Campers fish for new adventures

Today, we are hearing from Brianna Patrick, the environmental education supervisor at John Heinz National Wildlife Refuge (there she is having a teachable moment). The environmental education crew conducts a pretty impressive program for students in Philly and this year, they extended their lessons into summer camp! 

 

“There he is! There he is!” At just that moment, a tiny, yellow bird whizzed across the trail, landing on the highest branch of a nearby birch tree. A group of 13 rising fifth graders from southwest Philadelphia were elated! They jumped, pointed and loudly whispered that they had found him, the last bird of the birdwatching bingo challenge, an elusive yellow warbler.

Campers looking at a robin during birdwatching bingo! Photo credit: Kelly Kemmerle/USFWS

If you had met this same group of students just 12 months ago, they probably wouldn’t have noticed that bird. They might have kept on walking or they might not have ventured out to John Heinz National Wildlife Refuge at all. Fortunately, things went a bit differently. These students and many more of their classmates from Penrose and Patterson Elementary were Philly Nature Kids. They were participants in a year-long, intensive partnership with John Heinz Refuge staff.

Here we are with the campers checking out what we caught after dip netting for macroinvertebrates! Photo credit: Tylar Greene/USFWS

During the school year, our staff met with the students twice each month. First, they brought hands-on lessons to the students’ classrooms, introducing topics like habitats, birding, water quality, and pollination. The month’s second visit was a trip to the refuge to search and study each topic in the field.

This summer in addition to public camps, we offered a special “Philly Nature Kids Junior Ranger Camp”, open only to those students who participated all year. This camp served as a celebration of their hard work in science. Students tried their hands at outdoor skills like fishing, archery, kayaking, and more! It was the first time for nearly all of the students to hold a fishing pole or paddle their own boat. Although they hailed from different schools, the small group bonded quickly. They wholeheartedly (and literally!) jumped into their kayaks, cheering each other on as they launched.

Kelly Kemmerle, one of our environmental educators, in a tandem kayak with a camper. Photo credit: Lamar Gore/USFWS

The campers raved most about their fishing experience. Although the refuge’s tidal waters and overhanging trees proved challenging for the amateur anglers, their morale stayed high. Having the chance to try something so new and different left a mark on each of them. Even though no one caught a fish that morning, they were determined to come back and try again. Each of the campers was rewarded with their very own rod and tackle box to do just that. Check out this video of camper Shervon casting her line!

As an urbanite from the Detroit metro area, it was both energizing and inspiring to see the student’s determination as they cast their lines out over the creek. Many of my first outdoor experiences didn’t happen until college when I participated in the Career Discovery Internship Program through the Student Conservation Association. That summer on the refuge shaped both my career and my life today. I’m confident that the experiences our Philly Nature Kids had on the refuge will do the same. They may not all become wildlife biologists, but they will remember the refuge and their first time fishing on Darby Creek for many years to come.

Check out a story from the Philadelphia Inquirer about the summer camp! 

If you stock it, they will come

Michael Beauchene , of the Connecticut DEEP helped launch the Community Fishing Waters Program.

Michael Beauchene , of the Connecticut DEEP helped launch the Community Fishing Waters Program.

Today we highlight National Fishing and Boating Week with a story about bringing fishing and outdoor recreation to urban audiences in Connecticut. Mike Beauchene, a supervisory fisheries biologist for the Inland Fisheries Division of Connecticut’s Department of Energy and Environmental Protection, shares with us his work and passion to expand participation in recreational fishing with the Community Waters Fishing Program.

One of the

One of the “traditional” bodies of water where Connecticut’s DEEP have been stocking trout for years. These waters are located in the state’s eastern and western rural uplands. Photo credit: Mike Beauchene, CT DEEP

Stocking trout in Connecticut waters is an annual tradition dating back to the 1880s. The state’s Inland Fisheries Division stocks approximately 650,000 trout into hundreds of waters. Until 2007, these were almost exclusively in the “pristine” waters of our western and eastern uplands: highly forested areas found in rural communities.

“You want to stock where?” my colleagues asked when I explained my idea of stocking trout in small ponds located in some of Connecticut’s most populated communities. Community Fishing Waters, as we call them, are found in municipal parks and provide a mechanism to engage more than 70 percent of Connecticut’s residents in fishing and outdoor activities.

A young angler is learning how to fish in one of the stocked Community Fishing Waters, located in some of Connecticut's more urban areas. Photo credit: Mike Beauchene, CT DEEP

A young angler is learning how to fish in one of the stocked Community Fishing Waters, located in some of Connecticut’s more urban areas. Photo credit: Mike Beauchene, CT DEEP

Much of my co-workers’ initial skepticism stemmed from the ideas in David Quammen’s essay “Synecdoche and the Trout,” which describes trout habitat as “a particular complex of biotic and chemical and physical factor, a standard of richness and purity, without which that troutly presence in impossible.” They claimed that urban ponds have algal blooms, are too shallow, are too warm and cannot support trout year round. And adding to their resistance was the feeling that we would alienate our existing anglers.

Despite some hesitation, we moved forward with the Urban Fishing Initiative (now the Community Fishing Waters) pilot project, believing that we had fertile waters to grow new anglers. During the pilot phase between 2005 and 2011, we learned that more than 90 percent of people fishing in the urban waters traveled less than five miles to fish.

With funding from the Service's Wildlife and Sport Fish Restoration program, the Community Water's Program offers CT residents more places to fish, closer to highly populated neighborhoods. Photo credit: Mike Beauchene, CT DEEP

With funding from the Service’s Wildlife and Sport Fish Restoration program, the Community Waters Fishing Program offers Connecticut residents more places to fish, closer to highly populated neighborhoods. Photo credit: Mike Beauchene, CT DEEP

We decided to expand the Community Fishing Waters program after receiving an overwhelmingly positive response. Funding from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s Sport Fish Restoration Program helped make this expansion possible. In 2014 we added six new bodies of water, bringing the total number to 12 stocked ponds in 11 communities.

Stocking fish in one of the 12 ponds included in the program. Photo credit: Mike Beauchene, CT DEEP

Stocking fish in one of the 12 ponds included in the program. Photo credit: Mike Beauchene, CT DEEP

With our expansion also came the desire to want to learn more about the people who are fishing at the ponds and benefiting from the program. We conducted angler surveys at four of the new community waters and learned some very helpful information:

  • Almost everyone was a resident of the same community as the pond.
  • The majority of people came to fish specifically for the stocked fish, especially trout.
  • Someone was almost always fishing when we conducted an interview (only 2 survey dates had 0 anglers).
  • More than half of the first time interviewees had never fished the pond before.
  • More than 75 percent of the people returned multiple times to fish again.

I often get puzzled looks, and sometimes disapproval from our “traditional” angling community when I explain Community Fishing Waters and our work to expand and grow the program. To many of our constituents, their idea of “troutly presence” equals a pristine body of water in a rural location. But our put-take-management of these urban ponds opens all our waters for troutly presence. The more we can bring fish to the people, the more likely people will come to support fisheries, wildlife and outdoor recreation.

Fishing is a great way for kids and families to get outdoors, spend time together, and learn about the natural world that surround neighborhoods. Photo credit: Mike Beauchene, CT DEEP

Fishing is a great way for kids and families to get outdoors, spend time together, and learn about the natural world that surrounds their neighborhoods. Photo credit: Mike Beauchene, CT DEEP

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A successful day of fishing for this young lady at one of the Community Fishing Waters ponds. Photo credit: Michael Beauchene, CT DEEP

Learn more:

National Fishing and Boating Week

Community Fishing Waters Program

CT Fish and Wildlife Facebook

Wildlife and Sport Fish Restoration