Tag Archives: youth 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! 

Hook, line and sinker: Cops and kids connect through fishing

Fishing off the docks at Riverside Park in Hartford, Connecticut. The park, which is open to the public, provided a great location for the city's first Cops and Bobbers, Hooks and Ladders youth fishing event.

Fishing off the docks at Riverside Park in Hartford, Connecticut. The park, which is open to the public, provided a great location for the city’s first Cops and Bobbers, Hooks and Ladders youth fishing event. Photo Credit: USFWS

“I want to catch a fish!” These words filled the air on a hot August morning as more than 40 youth from Hartford, Connecticut took park in the city’s first Cops and Bobbers, Hooks and Ladders fishing event at Riverside Park.

The Cops and Bobbers, Hooks and Ladders program aims to get urban youth outdoors, teaches them to fish, and connects them to nature, while at the same time, fosters positive relationships with law enforcement and safety professionals in their community.

The event was an outstanding success thanks to all the partners who coordinated and supported the program.

Staff from Connecticut's Dept. of Energy and Environmental Protection CARE program instruct youth on how to properly coast with the fishing poles.

Keith Syrett, an interprestive guide with Connecticut Dept. of Energy and Environmental Protection instructs youth on how to properly cast with the fishing poles. Photo credit: USFWS

The City of Hartford Police and Fire Departments contributed time to help the young anglers cast, bait hooks and reel in any fish they caught. Staff from Connecticut Department of Energy and Environmental Protection’s angler education program taught kids how to cast, tie knots and identify fish. The Silvio O. Conte National Fish and Wildlife Refuge educated kids about the Connecticut River Watershed through its Watershed on Wheels traveling exhibit. And the Wilson-Gray YMCA and Family Center helped transport kids from their neighborhoods to the park in order to participate in the event.

These happy young anglers are all smiles as they receive their new fishing poles and other "goodies" provided to participants at the event. Photo credit: USFWS

These happy young anglers are all smiles as they receive their new fishing poles and other “goodies” provided to participants at the event. Photo credit: USFWS

Riverfront Recapture, a non-profit organization that maintains Riverside Park and other city parks, provided a great location to hold the event, and worked with Bass Pro Shops to donate a rod and reel to every participant.

Members of each organization also spent time, energy and money planning, organizing and gathering resources so that all kids who attended the event would have a meaningful experience connecting with diverse groups within their community.

A Hartford city officer helps and enthusiastic young angler as she casts her pole into the river. Photo credit: USFWS

Hartford City Officer Christopher Chanaca helps an enthusiastic young angler as she casts her pole into the river. Photo credit: USFWS

“We are teaching our youth that the Connecticut River is a tremendous fishery, right in their back yard. Through this exciting collaboration we are giving them tools to enjoy their free time and learn about their natural environment”, said Craig Mergins, Directory of Community Event and Engagement at Riverfront Recapture.

Kids got a close-up and personal look at the city's fire and safety equipment while also talking with firefighters and EMTs. Photo credit: USFWS

Kids get a close-up and personal look at the city’s fire and safety equipment while also talking with firefighters and EMTs. Photo credit: USFWS

The program also supports the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s Urban Wildlife Refuge Partnerships. By partnering with police and fire departments, the Conte Refuge hopes to create connections within urban communities in the Connecticut River watershed. Through these connections, the Refuge aims to encourage urban youth to feel comfortable in nature and foster a love of the outdoors.

Ideally, with a new fishing rod in hand and the skills they learned at the event, these young kids will continue to fish, carrying with them the desire to protect and conserve our natural world, not only for themselves, but for generations to come.

Photo credit: USFWS

Photo credit: USFWS

 

 

Cops and Bobbers: Partnering with police for community and fishing!

Chelsea DiAntonio is a wildlife refuge specialist at the Wallkill River National Wildlife Refuge. Photo credit: USFWS

Chelsea DiAntonio is a wildlife refuge specialist at the Wallkill River National Wildlife Refuge in New Jersey. Photo credit: USFWS

It’s National Fishing and Boating week, and today we are showcasing a partnership that merges cops, communities and fishing. Chelsea DiAntonio of the Wallkill National Wildlife Refuge in New Jersey shares with us this inspiring story of how one city police department is taking an active role in making positive connections with its young citizens through fishing and connecting families with the natural world around them.  

 

When a city police department decides to hold a youth fishing derby, you can expect a great time and a fun play on words. The “Cops and Bobbers” fishing event was organized by the City of Garfield Police Department in Garfield, New Jersey, with the intent to foster positive relationships with families and young people throughout their community. One important goal of holding these community events is to deter kids from turning to the streets, getting involved with gangs, or partaking in illegal activities.

Members from the City of Garfield Police Department manage a busy registration tent. Photo Credit: USFWS

Members of the City of Garfield Police Department manage a busy registration tent. Photo Credit: USFWS

And what better way for a community to come together in a positive way then through fishing! Thus, the creation of the “Cops and Bobbers” family fishing event!

The city of Garfield is located within a mosaic of urban communities in northern New Jersey, just a few miles from Manhattan. The number of outdoor recreational areas available for families to use is minimal. But one of the few remaining community parks happens to be located just next to the police headquarters. In the middle of Dahnerts Lake Park is a nice size lake with trout stocked by the New Jersey Department of Fish and Wildlife. While many residents take advantage of the park to play, the lake is under-utilized.

Dave Miller from The Great Swamp National Wildlife Refuge outfits a young angler with a bobber. Photo credit: USFWS

Dave Miller from The Great Swamp National Wildlife Refuge hands a young angler a bobber. Photo credit: USFWS

Since the Garfield Police Department had never run a fishing derby before they turned to the knowledgeable employees from the Great Swamp and Wallkill River National Wildlife Refuges for assistance. Refuge staff were well equipped for the event, bringing along hooks, bobbers, and other fishing supplies to help the young anglers. And as an added bonus, the police department brought fishing poles to be given away to the first 150 participants. The grand prize of the day was a kayak that went to one lucky angler who landed the largest trout.

A popular spot to fish was from the gazebo in the middle of Danhert's Lake. Photo credit: USFWS

A popular spot to fish was from the gazebo in the middle of Danhert’s Lake. Photo credit: USFWS

There’s no doubt that Garfield Police Department went above and beyond to outfit their young community members with all of the tools needed to get fishing!  Now, thanks to the Cops and Bobbers program, maybe more residents will use the lake for fishing.

George Molnar of Great Swamp National Wildlife Refuge helps unhook a catfish. Photo credit: USFWS

George Molnar of Great Swamp National Wildlife Refuge helps unhook a catfish. Photo credit: USFWS

All the refuge staff look forward to growing the partnership with the Garfield Police Department and helping with future events.  Travelling to these communities and working with urban audiences and partners such as the Garfield Police Department, present a good foundation to build new connections. Adding a fun, interactive activity such as fishing helps the cause all the better, with hopes that the younger generation fosters a stronger appreciation of the natural world.

Learn more about National Fishing and Boating Week.

Find a place to fish and boat near you.

Visit Wallkill River and Great Swamp National Wildlife Refuges

Take Me Fishing

Learn more about the Cops and Kids Foundation.