Fewer people are fishing than in the past, but at Free Fishing Day this past weekend, quite a few Vermonters turned out. And the state is encouraging more kids to get involved in this Vermont tradition.
At the Little Anglers Derby in Colchester on Saturday, almost 50 kids showed up with their families for an afternoon of fishing.
The event was organized by “Let’s Go Fishing,” a division of Vermont’s Fish & Wildlife Department designed to encourage families to learn the sport.
Karl Hubbard is an instructor with the program. He says fishing can be exciting.
“It’s the thrill of the chase,” said Hubbard. “It’s the going out and seeing if you can catch the fish. Once you catch the fish, trying to identify it. It’s just being in the outdoors and seeing the quality of life that is out there.”
This year, the youth event happened to coincide with Free Fishing Day. That means adults who would normally need to buy license could fish with their kids at no cost. Hubbard is chatting with the Relyea family, who have three generations represented here.
Caden Relyea is 11. His grandfather taught him how to fish when he was about five. He has some advice for anyone thinking about taking up the sport.
“You have to have a lot of patience if you want to go fishing, because you want to wait for the fish to bite,” said Relyea. “You don’t just want to cast out and reel in every five minutes.”
Relyea says the biggest fish he’s ever caught is a seven pound bass. He hasn’t caught anything yet today. Just then, he feels something on the line and reels it in.
“It’s a white perch, and a bass,” said Relyea, immediately identifying the fish.
Relyea says he stays inside and plays video games sometimes, but for him, being outside is more fun.
That might be refreshing for outdoor enthusiasts to hear, because the number of hunting and fishing licenses purchased has been on the decline for a few decades now.
And Fish & Wildlife officials acknowledge that as parts of Vermont become more suburban, fewer people have a direct connection to the outdoors.
Karl Hubbard says programs like “Let’s Go Fishing” are a gateway for families that might not otherwise fish.
And he says that the sport is just part of bigger lessons the program teaches about care for the environment.
“They’re the ones that are going to be taking care of our environment. Fishing is just all a part of it,” said Hubbard. “We teach how to manage the water. We talk about water quality, we talk about watersheds, and what happens at the top of the watershed affects everything downstream. A lot of the kids really do understand that.”