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With focus on adults, Free Fishing Weekend a success

Wed., June 15, 2011, 8:01 p.m.

So you love the sport of fishing and you want to see it prosper and perpetuate.

Where do you apply your efforts – with the parents or the kids?

It’s a bit like the “chicken or the egg” debate.

Fishing groups get all warm and fuzzy about efforts to take kids fishing, for good reason. There’s nothing like the look on the face of a kid who hooks a fish to leave you feeling as though you landed the big one that didn’t get away.

Maybe you did.

Kids from non- angling families who are introduced to catching fish might return home and bug their parents until they take them to the nearest lake or stream.

Teaching someone else’s kid to fish might at least plant a seed that will sprout and flourish years later.

However, in many cases, the parents are the reason the kid isn’t fishing in the first place. And they will be the reason the kid doesn’t go fishing later, too.

The Inland Northwest Wildlife Council and the Washington Fish and Wildlife Department’s Spokane staff aimed their efforts a little higher up the age chain last weekend.

A cast of nine volunteers showed up to spend the first day of Free Fishing Weekend with 28 adults who signed up for a free class on learning to catch, clean and cook fish.

It was the debut of Adult Fishing 101 at Bunker’s Resort on Williams Lake.

“We all learned a lot – the people taking the class and those of use who were putting it on,” said Madonna Luers, the agency’s spokeswoman in Spokane.

“But I think we’re on to something here. Our feedback was positive. Most of them thought it would be beneficial to have more one-on-one with an instructor. After all, there’s a lot to teach.

“But I was encouraged to see everyone so eager to learn and eager to leave the class and go fishing on their own.

“And almost everyone caught a fish.”

Men outnumbered women at the class. One father brought his sons, ages 16 and 22, so they could learn fishing techniques together.

Another man said fishing is something he’s always longed to take up.

Two other guys said they fished when they were kids, but got busy with careers and let it slide from their lives.

“Now that they’re retired, they want to relearn something they remember enjoying as kids,” Luers said.

Several husband-wife couples signed up for the class.

“We had a rule: no pets, or kids under 16,” Luers said. “But one couple was clearly there with the intent to take their kids out fishing. They were so into it, soaking up everything. They planned to take their kids out the next day.”

Class participants were given an inexpensive rod-reel combo and taught how to rig it and cast. They got tips on where to fish.

“What struck me most came at the end of the clinic when Jim Kujala showed them how to clean and cook their fish,” Luers said. “Jim would have cleaned the fish for them, but they wanted to do it themselves, under his supervision.”

In other words, they weren’t there for amusement. These adults signed up for learning, hands on.

This sort of adult instruction effort might be the best application for Washington’s annual Free Fishing weekend, when no fishing license is required.

“The free fishing days have pretty much become a border swap, where already-established fishermen from Idaho come to Washington and vice versa,” Luers said.

Kids can fish without a license anytime. So why not focus the Free Fishing Weekend on adults?

I’m not suggesting we should cut back on taking kids out to hook a perch or land a trout.

But no adults should be left behind if they have a yen for fishing.

Either way, free fishing instruction feeds the goal of cultivating full-fledged tackle-buying, license-holding, stream-loving, lake-conserving, water-quality-protecting fishery advocates.

That’s a school worth building.

Contact Rich Landers at (509) 459-5508 or email

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