Focus: Youth fishing

Readers may recall that last week I mentioned the schools that have trout rearing and stocking programs.  This program is enthusiastically received by the parents, teachers and students.  But, there are also youths who like to catch them, too.  Recently, I attended two events where the focus was on youth fishing.


One of them took place on Reynolds Pond in Cheshire.  The event, called the Youth Outreach Fishing Derby, is sponsored by the Berkshire County League of Sportsmen.  The League purchased the trout, the food, the bait and fishing outfits for each kid.  The Adams Outdoor for Youth and the Cheshire Rod & Gun Club set up the equipment, helped teach the kids how to bait the hooks, to catch and land fish.  They also did the cooking and fish cleaning.  All of the officers of the County League were there to give support.  Members of the East Mountain Sportsmen’s Club, Taconic Chapter of Trout Unlimited, Pittsfield Sportsmen’s Club, Lenox Sportsmen’s Club and others also pitched in to make sure the kids had a very enjoyable and memorable day.  They deserved it.


So who were the kids who were so lavishly treated?  Most of them (16) were kids who typically don’t have parents who could take them fishing because they didn’t have fishing poles and wherewithal and because it wasn’t in their experience.   Because of where they are on the socio-economic scale they were kids that may tend to be truants or a little problematic in school.  They never had the opportunity to experience outdoor fishing type activities.   Alex Daugherty, Probation Officer from the Juvenile Probation District of Northern Berkshires brought them.  His connection with them was through the Northern Berkshire Coalition.


Bill Gates, Chief of Juvenile Courts in Berkshire County brought along another 4 kids from the Key Shelter in Pittsfield.  The Key Shelter is a clinical house, a place where kids, because of their situations at home, needed a change in environment.  The court system is involved and placed them there not because they are delinquent but for diagnostic emphasis.  The kids are troubled for reasons beyond their control and need to be helped outside of the home to work things out.


For most, this was the first time they had ever gone fishing.   But with the help of the mentors it didn’t take long for them to figure out how to cast and catch fish.   Every kid caught at least one fish and most went home with bags of brook trout to eat.


Around noon, they took a break and were treated to burgers, hot dogs, chips, cookies and refreshments.  They all were well mannered kids who, at least on that day, had a ball and left any problems they had behind. It probably costs the League $1,000 to put this on but there is never any hesitation from the delegates.   League VP Mike Kruszyna often refers to this day as the best, most rewarding day of the year.  Amen to that.  *****


Staying with youths and fishing, Taconic High School teacher Ron Wojcik has been teaching an after school fly fishing class for a number of years.  In his course, he teaches fly casting, how to tie fishing knots, equipment and safety, and when time permits stream entomology.  He is looking to expand the program in the future to include some fly tying and work on some fly fishing trips to local waters. Most of these kids do not have their own equipment so Trout Unlimited members who help out allow them to borrow theirs.  Wojcik is also looking into possible future funding to get the kids some beginning equipment such as fly rods, flies, fly boxes, waders and vests. (Incidentally, if Wojcik’s name sounds familiar, he is also the coach of the Hoosic Valley Regional High School girls’ basketball team.  You know, the team that usually wins.)


At the end of the fly fishing course, Ron invites them to an undisclosed private fishing spot and, with the help of several Taconic TU mentors, puts them to work casting and catching trout. But not before they had their fill of pizza and brownies made by his wife Diane.


This year, he had 5 students:  Mike Boc, Alex Stevens, Troy Phelps, Alex Kent and Lexi Henderson in his class.  It was the first class that he had a lady flyfisher (Lexi) and she not only caught the most fish but also the largest one, a nice sized rainbow trout.


Since beginning the course, Ron has had over 50 students go through and participate over the years. He receives assistance from fellow teachers and TU members Dave Boyce and Steve Smith. *****


The Mass. Division of Marine Fisheries (DMF) has designated July 4 and 5 as Free Saltwater Fishing Days.  No permit is required to fish recreationally in the Commonwealth’s marine waters, out to three miles. (Saltwater anglers over the age of 15 are usually required to have a Massachusetts Recreational Saltwater Fishing Permit.) Anglers looking for a spot to drop a line from shore, or a boat ramp to put in a kayak, canoe, or larger vessel, should check out the Office of Fishing and Boating Access’ Directory of Access Sites. *****


The Stockbridge Sportsmen’s Club 2015 Youth Rifle League will begin on July 8 with safety night.  On the next seven Wednesdays, from 5 PM to 7PM, they will be shooting on the range. The last night of the league will be August 26 with some fun shooting and a cookout.  Cost is $40 per child.


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