Program aims to hook kids on fishing

Greenbrier State park hosting one-week camps

Greenbrier State park hosting one-week camps

July 28, 2005|by TONY BUDNY

Whether the youngsters attending the "Hooked on Fishing, Not on Drugs" summer fishing camps have fished before or are new anglers, they each need only three words to describe the experience:

"I got one!"

Held annually, "Hooked on Fishing, Not on Drugs" extends to five weeks, with each week having a new group of youngsters learning about fishing. This week is the fourth week for the program this summer at Greenbrier State Park.

According to the Maryland Department of Natural Resources Web site, in 1986, a Florida teenager wrote a letter to the Future Fishermen Foundation, one of the current sponsors and founding organizations of the program, explaining how he chose to go fishing and think through his problems rather than turn to drugs. He wanted an alternative to drug use for others as well, and his suggestion evolved into a national program held in 27 states, Washington D.C., American Samoa and Puerto Rico, the Web site says.


In 1989, the program began in Maryland, where four sites hold the program: Greenbrier State Park, Patapsco Valley State Park, Harford Glen Environmental Center and Howard's Pond.

The program once was affiliated with DARE, according to John Bailey, a 16-year instructor with the program. Even though DARE has been discontinued, the anti-drug message still exists in the program, he said.

"We don't get into the hard drugs like what was in DARE. We just try to give them a brief overview of the drugs, what they are and make sure they know there is an alternative to them," he said.

Those ages 7 to 15 can participate each year in the program, Bailey said.

The first day of the program at Greenbrier includes an overview of safe ways to handle fish, the anatomy of fish, and lessons about pollution in the Potomac River and conservation, Bailey said. The remaining days are dedicated to fishing in the lake. The first day, the youngsters use a net, while during the final three days, they use rods and reels, Bailey said.

On Wednesday at Greenbrier State Park, the program went to the lake for the first time this week.

"We've had 100 percent of the kids catch a fish on their first day so far this summer. Even if they don't catch anything, some come back the next day and catch 10. That's what fishing is about," said Mark Davis, one of the instructors.

For Chris Hackett, 10, of Hagerstown, the program provides just another day at the lake.

"I've been fishing before. I caught a large-mouth bass about 12 inches long," he said.

Marrisa Frederickson, 9, of Hagerstown, is a fishing novice but she caught four sunfish in a span of 45 minutes.

"After this week, we hope we have 18 fishermen. Basically, our goal is for these kids to become self-sufficient. In other words, if they're out in a body of water somewhere, they can catch their own food," Bailey said.

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