We often sit around the dinner table and discuss the issues that have happened in our community, “Why did this happen, what made these youngsters do certain things”. The answer is somewhat simple, “Nobody spent any quality time with these kids”. We didn’t teach them to F-I-S-H.
I along with a few members of the Magnolia Crappie Club got a chance to spend a few hours doing what we love, “Teaching kids to fish”. It’s one of best feelings a true fisherman can have, it ranks up there with catching a winning tournament stringer or that record crappie. We got a chance to see kids catch their first fish or the biggest fish of a lifetime and guess what? It didn’t cost anything other than the time and gas to drive up to the Mississippi Wildlife and Fisheries Turcotte Educational Center.
Each year during the first week of June, MDWFP, Mississippi Wildlife Federation, MS Museum of Natural Science, Sport Fish Restoration, Coca-Cola, Walmart, Academy Sports and Outdoors, Brown Bottling Group, BankPlus, Keep the Rez Beautiful, Allied Waste Services, Blue Bunny Ice Cream, Frito-Lay, Keesler Federal Credit Union and the Magnolia Crappie Club all come together to sponsor a free event for children aged 15 and under to teach them all about fishing. It’s absolutely free and get this, “The kids have a great time”. They learn the basics of fishing, knot tying, lure selection, bait, hooks, and casting. They also learn about the different species of freshwater fish and their habitat. Last but not least, they get to catch up to 5 fish per child in each round of fishing. They also get a t-shirt, lunch, and beverages at no cost, all provided by our wonderful sponsors.
All the kids have to do is hold a cane pole, volunteers do everything else. We bait their hooks, remove and bag their fish and some cases, keep them from jumping in the water after a fish. They’re allowed to fish 30 minutes each round, some kids fished 2 to 3 rounds, catching their 5 fish limit each round. The earlier rounds were fast and furious, as fast as you could put your hook in the water catfish from 2 pounds to 5 pounds would bite.
I saw lots of broken poles and lines. One little girl completely threw her pole in the water when she saw the catfish. You can’t script that, that’s no fish story. The pole floated around the lake for the entire duration. Guess you can’t make fishermen out of all of them.
The most difficult part of the entire experience was keeping the parents from fishing. Some of the parents had never caught a fish; this was new them as well. Each kid got to take their fish home for supper; I know it was some happy parents and kids at the dinner table.
The ponds were well stocked. One game warden said that they had released 3,000 plus catfish in the ponds a few days earlier. I don’t think they caught all of them, however, they did thin them out somewhat.
I got a chance to see kids from all over the State of MS and the one thing they all had in common on this day; they all enjoyed fishing and catching fish. I know what you say, “What good does that do?” Well, if what I did on Saturday, June 3rd, 2017 helped save just one child, made one child develop a passion for fishing, then my work was not in vain. If I taught one child how to fish and that could feed them for a lifetime, then surely I won’t have to feed them for a day.
Several kids have become regulars, I’ve invited their parents to bring them when they were 2 to 3 years old, several are almost at the 15-year-old limit, they keep coming back each year. One parent told me that her son woke her up at 4 am ready to go fishing. She said she have to call and threaten multiple times to get up for school, not for fishing.
Now that’s what I call “Addicted to Fishing”. I was the exact same way at that young age, I made sure I went to bed early because we had a fishing trip planned for the next morning. I thank my parents for providing me with that opportunity. It’s now my job to “Pay It Forward” to the next generation.
I would like to thank the MCC members that took time out of schedule to volunteer for this event, David & Samantha McWilliams, Robbie & Stephanie Niven and Lance Evans. It’s no way to pay you for your service other than to say, “I know the kids appreciated it!”. David and Samantha’s son, 7-year-old Trae, caught his limit 3 times. That boy loves “Trolling for Catfish”.
So next year, the 1st Saturday in June, come join us. Don’t matter if you know how to fish or not, we have plenty of volunteer spots. Invest a few hours in something that’s surely going to pay big dividends in the future. You’ll be glad you took the time and you might just enjoy it as much as the little ones.
– By Bernard Williams, Outdoor Writer