June 2016
Youth Matters

4-H Extension Corner: Let's Go Fishing!

4-H Sportfishing Program is angling for aquatic education.

4-H Sportfishing is about creating lifelong memories and growing stewards who will become better decision-makers of our aquatic resources in the future.  

This year, the Alabama Cooperative Extension System’s 4-H is hoping to draw in youth from across the state with one of its new outdoor recreation programs, 4-H Sportfishing. Alabama’s 77,000 miles of rivers and streams, 42 reservoirs (totaling more than a half million acres), 23 special state-managed lakes, and tens of thousands of private ponds and lakes make for great recreational angling – something people of all ages can enjoy. The kickoff event was May 13.

Alabama 4-H has partnered with the Alabama Department of Conservation and Natural Resources’ Wildlife and Freshwater Fisheries Division to bring 4-H Sportfishing opportunities to the youth and families of Alabama and connect them to the bodies of water in their own backyard.

This hands-on natural resource program is dedicated to delivering aquatic education and fisheries outreach to youth ages 9 to 18. As a new venture, the program is being piloted in Cherokee, Colbert, Covington, Coffee, Dale, Escambia, Etowah, Franklin, Jackson, Jefferson, Lauderdale, Marion, Tallapoosa and Washington counties. Designated county Extension staff in these areas have become certified to lead Sportfishing events and activities with youth in their communities.

Participants are encouraged to explore our state’s major recreational fisheries – black bass, crappie, catfish and sunfish – firsthand while learning to fish.

  The Commissioner of Conservation and Natural Resources has designated June 11, 2016 as a Free Fishing Day for the public to fish recreationally in public waters without a fishing license (some lakes may still require a fee and permits, and owner’s permission is required to fish private ponds).

Though catching fish is bound to excite, it isn’t all 4-H Sportfishing is about. Helping our youth to develop responsible fishing and water-safety skills is an essential part of the program, as well as learning about aquatic ecology and getting creative through tackle crafting. Experiences such as these may inspire youth to pursue a career in fisheries or other aquatic science disciplines.

Collaborating with ADCNR to bring fishing-education opportunities to Alabama’s youth in a positive youth development setting is truly exciting. Together, we can reach youth from all backgrounds to help develop their heads, hearts, hands and health. 4-H Sportfishing is about creating lifelong memories and growing stewards who will become better decision-makers of our aquatic resources in the future.

The program is in its pilot year, but has already generated a large amount of interest. It is made possible by dedicated Extension staff, volunteers and partners across Alabama, who are enthusiastic about educating others through outdoor recreation.

Their dedication is a great investment in securing a better tomorrow for generations to come.

Now is a great time to get involved. If you are interested in learning more about the 4-H Sportfishing Program, please contact your local Extension office and ask for their 4-H representative.

Emily Nichols is an Extension natural resources specialist and Doyle Keasal is an environmental education specialist, both with Alabama Cooperative Extension System.