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Fb65 Exemplary Anglers Formatted

Fb65 Exemplary Anglers Formatted

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Published by Bob Wattendorf

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Published by: Bob Wattendorf on Jun 23, 2011
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06/23/2011

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Florida Fish BustersMay 2011
Exemplary anglers share their passion for fishing
By: Bob Wattendorf and Eddie Leonard, Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission
If you really want to know whyfishing is fun, all you have to do is takechildren out and watch the stream of emotions that light up their faces as theylearn to bait a hook, cast and finally hookand retrieve a fish. The joy of learning, thereconnection with nature and our heritage,and the fulfillment of knowing they cancatch their own – just like the pioneers – contribute to those sensational smiles.
Fishing clinics provide lots of smiles and greatmemories.
These are the same reasons, social scientists discover time and again, thatfishing remains such a popular recreational activity. Herbert Hoover said, “Fishingis much more than fish. It is the great occasion when we may return to the finesimplicity of our forefathers.”Dozens of studies have consistently verified that involvement with familymembers and friends, escaping the daily routine, relaxing, being outdoors close tonature, and the sporting challenge of fishing are the top five reasons for fishing.These motives remain at the top of the list regardless of the group studied.
 
Conservation agencies, guides, facility planners, anglers and boaters shareroles in making fishing more fun and satisfying for everyone on the water. They allhave an abiding love for aquatic resources and the conservation stewardship ethicthat help keep our natural resources pristine.The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) is striving tocreate the next generation that cares through a variety of education and outreachprograms across the state. This includes working with the Get Outdoors Florida!Coalition (www.GetOutdoorsFlorida.org), which lists activities and events all acrossthe state, and with the Florida Youth Conservation Network, which is working oncompleting a series of facilities that can provide more in-depth educationalopportunities (www.FYCCN.org
 
). However, whatever banner is hanging, whatmakes these events work are the staff and volunteers. They are the unsung heroesof this movement to connect children and nature.For instance, Mike Lesso and Dave Morse, who work with FWC’sJacksonville Youth Summer Fishing Clinics, have taught more than 50,000 childrento fish.“Mike, a high school teacher and avid sportsman, and Dave, a retiredbusinessman and passionate recreational and tournament fisherman, have beenteaching children how to catch fish for so long that many of their earliest pupils nowhave children of their own,” said Eddie Leonard, their supervisor from the FWC’sDivision of Freshwater Fisheries Management. Youth summer fishing clinics help kids appreciate freshwater resources andteach them the skills needed to catch fish. “These incredible experiences are
 
delivered completely free of charge to participants,” Leonard said. “The programoriginated with FWC biologists doing the teaching but was turned over to Mike andDave. It’s apparent when observing these two that they love what they are doing.”These men typically conduct twoworkshops per day in the Jacksonville area,throughout the summer, reaching morethan 5,000 students during summer breaksome years. Classes begin with a 30-minutelecture on ethical angling, water pollution,fish biology, tackle and techniques, andseveral other topics.
 Dave & Mike over their careers have taught morethan 50,000 kids the joy of fishing at FWC fishing clinics.
“Then the fun starts,” Leonard said. “They take the kids to the water’s edgeand watch as the kids tangle lines, step in mud, worry about alligators, and catchtheir first fish, ever.” Some children get frustrated easily or seem very distracted atfirst. However, once someone catche the first fish, they are all very much in themoment.“The expressions on the faces of the kids catching that first fish are nothingshort of fantastic. There’s excitement mixed with fear, and exhilaration blendedwith pride,” Leonard said.There always seems to be that one kid who stands out as a true angler,Leonard explained. “One little girl at a recent event was so successful that sheoffered to show the other kids how it was done. The student became the teacher in90 minutes.”

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