Reaching out to kids through fishing

Published online: Jan 19, 2012 News Tara Bitzan and Al Edenloff - Alexandria Echo Pres
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There's more to fishing than catching fish.

It can teach children lifelong lessons about patience, interacting with adult mentors, decision making and protecting resources.

That's what the Alexandria Youth Fishing Federation (AYFF) is all about.

AYFF leaders recognize that the youth in the community face many challenges.

Studies show that childhood obesity rates continue to climb, teen depression and suicide are prevalent and many kids lack quality time with adult mentors.

The AYFF wants to change that by encouraging kids to take a break from their video games and electronics and enjoy the outdoors, spending time with other kids and adults in a positive environment.

"Our focus is family oriented programs that teach good life skills," said Rick Jones, one of the organizers behind the effort.

The AYFF is working with other groups in three key segments:

 Let's Go Fishing - Kids. Leaders are focusing on 4th through 6th graders in the area, hoping to get 250 kids in the program this first year.

Kids will spend three hours in the classroom, learning the basics of fishing, caring for the environment and the importance of kindness and working with others.

After that, they'll go on three fishing trips. Data shows that if a child goes fishing three times and has a positive experience, it will stay with him or her for a lifetime.

Parents are invited to come along at least once and can also help in other ways.

Each child will receive a rod and reel and some tackle. To offset the costs, there is a small fee of $20 per child.

 Fishers of Men - Legacy Program. This effort creates teams of one adult and one child for a bass tournament. It introduces kids to the competitive aspect of the sport. It's a true competition with a chance for entrants to win prizes.

A dinner with a devotional message will be held on a Friday and the tournament will take place the next day.

This is the third year of the program locally. Last year's event resulted in 17 boats in the tournament and about 75 adults and children attending the Friday event.

 Student Angler Federation. Organizers describe this as a creative and competitive high school bass fishing tournament involving teams - two students and an adult who serves as coach, teacher, mentor and planner. The adult doesn't fish.

One of the goals is to introduce kids to careers in the competitive fishing industry. The sport offers more than 30 career choices.

It's open to all area high schools - not just Jefferson High School.

Students take 15 hours of classroom time and receive adult fishing equipment, including a rod and reel and tackle. A fee in the range of $25 will be charged.

Area bass fishermen volunteer their boats and drive the teams on the lake.


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