By: Chris Hendon
Looking for ways to expand kids’ summer programming in the Lamoille County Mental Health Services’ (LCMHS) Redwood Program, Dan Gilbert and I attended a recent Let’s Go Fishing clinic offered by Vermont Fish and Wildlife. We wanted to improve Redwood’s free six-week summer programming and offer kids a chance to get out and do some structured fishing as well as having ongoing access to fishing equipment for these kids’ adventures. Every year a few kids, dreaming about those summer days on a river or lake, ask if fishing can be incorporated into the Redwood summer program. Due to a lack of equipment, every year we have had to say no.
We heard about the Let’s Go Fishing program at Vermont Fish & Wildlife and thought it would be an excellent chance to be able to include any kids who are interested, including—and perhaps especially—the kids who have never touched a fishing pole before. We hope to inspire excitement about getting outside and fishing. This is an activity they can share with friends and family. It creates a life-long skill that encourages patience and mindfulness, as well as an appreciation of our natural world.
As the training day started rolling, we realized this is about much more than simply fishing. It’s about learning about our water ecosystems, about different types of fish in Vermont, and teaching basic skills to build upon such as knot tying and proper casting techniques. Most importantly, it is about getting children and adults outside and engaged in conservation and fishing in a day and age where people are spending less and less time outdoors. The structure of this program teaches skills and knowledge that kids can carry with them for the rest of their lives. Learning about fishing rules and regulations gives insight into breeding habits and the availability of fish in certain bodies of water. The Department of Vermont Fish & Wildlife simply wants people to get out on the water, know what fishing is all about, and most importantly, to have some fun!
The volunteer training itself certified us as Vermont Fish & Wildlife Lets Go Fishing Instructors. This certification will offer many opportunities to expand our knowledge and training above and beyond the summer programming at Redwood. In addition to a typical “fishing” clinic, Vermont Fish & Wildlife offers ice fishing and fly fishing clinics as long as there is a certified instructor available who is experienced in those areas. They offer dozens of clinics every year, and we can now easily organize clinics for the kids in LCMHS programs. Let’s Go Fishing provides attendees with an educational tote and all the fishing equipment that we will need, as well as ongoing support. I encourage anyone who is interested in expanding their children’s programming to become an instructor. It’s a free, day-long course, and it is well worth it. If you are just interested in learning about fishing or would like to enhance your experience, I recommend taking part in one (or many!) of these clinics. It is all free and enrolling in the clinic gives you the ability to fish even if you don’t have a license.
I can’t recommend this fantastic program enough. If you want to know more you can ask Dan or myself, or reach out directly Corey Hart, a program manager at Vermont Fish and Wildlife, Corey.Hart@vermont.gov.
An avid ice fisherman, Chris is a Redwood Service Coordinator at Lamoille County Mental Health Services and a clinical mental health graduate student at Northern Vermont University.