MUCC and partners help families get fishing this summer

With more than 1 million anglers buying fishing licenses in Michigan each year, fishing is a time honored summer tradition. The best part about traditions is that they happen year after year. With this in mind, MUCC in partnership with the Discovery Center and Pier of Traverse City, Northwest Michigan Fishing Club and the Inland Seas Education Association, held their 2nd annual family fishing event on June 1st. With funding provided by the Great Lakes Fisheries Trust (GLFT), the goal of this event is to highlight shore fishing opportunities and provide a recreational opportunity for local families in the Traverse City Area.

With a target audience of youth ages 7-15 who preferably haven’t fished before, but are interested in trying it out, this event hosted 44 families throughout the day. Of those 44 families, most of them were either brand new to fishing or had very limited experience. We also had a couple of families returning from their experience last year and they brought friends with them to enjoy the day of fishing.

The day was split into two sessions. Each session had roughly 20ish families who registered. Each session was about four hours in length with a break for volunteers for lunch. The outline of the day included participants being split into groups named after native Michigan fish. Each group spent 20 minutes at a station and then rotated from station to station throughout the morning. There were four stations for the kids to learn.

MUCC staff ran the fish identification station. This station had taxidermy to pass around and focused on fish species and fish anatomy for different species. There was also a fish family sorting game. Participants were tasked with using the anatomy lessons they learned to group fish families together. The hands-on taxidermy display and the chance to take a picture with a nice steelhead was the highlight of this station.

The next station was staffed by Inland Seas staff. These staff were in charge of the food web, which was highlighted by allowing the kids to sort through a variety of live macroinvertebrates. Participants enjoyed sorting mayfly larvae, dragonfly larvae, scuds and a variety of other water “bugs”. This station was designed not only to connect the kids to not often seen creatures of the bay, but also get them thinking about what fish eat, so they can think about bait!

The next two stations were run by volunteers from the Northwest Michigan Fishing Club. Knot tying and practice casting were the next two rotations. Volunteers used plastic fish and hula hoops to provide targets to teach casting. The knot of the day was the Palomar knot. After a few lessons, the kids picked up knot tying pretty quick and were ready for the next session.

We were fortunate enough to be joined by two local conservation officers who spent the day with us. So, after the station rotation, the officers spent about 10 minutes talking about rules, regulations and the ethics of fishing. They answered several questions and reviewed the fishing digest.

After that, it was a quick hook baiting lesson and the families hit the water to fish. It was a tough day for catching, but a good day for fishing. The participants spent about 45 minutes trying to get the fish to bite, with not much luck. If not for the round goby population, it would have been an even tougher morning.

Once the families were done fishing, the groups filled out surveys and were given a brand new rod/reel, tackle box and a bag of gear to help them keep fishing throughout the summer.

The afternoon group followed the same schedule and also had a tough go of catching. They did manage to land a few rock bass and a smallmouth, but for most of the groups it was a goby filled day. Many of the gobies ended up going home to become garden fertilizer.

Overall it was a great day on the water with good partners. Thank you to the volunteers, and staff who helped make this another successful event, and to the GLFT for the funding for the 2nd year of this program.

A thought to leave you with, according to the Recreational Boating and Fishing Foundation, “86% of current fishing participants started before the age of 12.” If you are going fishing this summer, take a young person with you. You could be helping them find a passion for life.

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