By Donna Fahres
Dominic Hicks excitedly prepares for fishing at Patapsco Valley State Park. What did you do this summer? Watch reruns on television? Play video games? Nothing special at all? You could have spent some time with folks at the Maryland Department of Natural Resources (DNR) learning how to fish!
Every summer in July and August, DNR holds Hooked on Fishing, Not on Drugs fishing clinics. This free program for boys and girls ages 8-15 offers classes at five locations around the state. Each session runs three hours a day for five days.

Students learn and practice basic fishing skills like knot tying, attaching tackle, hook safety, proper catch and release techniques, and casting. Kids also learn about local environmental issues like water pollution through discussion and fun hands-on activities. By the last day of the clinic, students are able to set up rods with tackle, bait hooks, release catch, and (hopefully) detangle their own fishing lines.

Natural Resources Police officers bring students important lessons about water and boating safety, while Drug Abuse Resistance Education (D.A.R.E.) officers encourage young people to pursue healthy, fun outdoor activities like fishing instead of risky, dangerous behavior like drug use.

Join In...
Registration for the summer clinics begins in April. Fly-fishing is offered on weekends in the spring and fall. For more information about the fishing clinics, day programs for community organizations, and the fishing equipment loaner program, visit our website or call 410-260-8721.

To learn more about fishing opportunities in Maryland, visit DNR's Fisheries site.

Hands on...
Can Casting

Practice your casting aim with everyday supplies.

  • 1 empty soda can
  • Fishing line
    (20-30 feet)
  • Casting plug
  • Strong Tape

Tie one end of the fishing line around the can and tape down. Wrap the remaining line around the can. Tie a casting plug on the end of the line. Keep your thumb over the wrapped line and hold onto the can. Overhead cast and release your thumb off the line. The line should spin off the can like a spinning reel.

Rick LaNore, (Bass Federation), with Jake Lowry and Alissa Mitchell.  They were Casting kids Contest Winners this summer at Patapsco Valley State Park.Last summer the Maryland B.A.S.S. Federation held special Casting Kids contests the Harford Glen and Patapsco Valley locations. At these special events participants were taught three styles of casting and given a few practices before the competition began. The person with the highest score for each age group (7 to 10, 11 to 14) was the winner for the week, and received a medal, a new Zebco spincast rod combo, and an invitation to the state finals.

Think regular fishing is too easy? Perhaps it's time to move on to the challenge of fly-fishing! In 2003 DNR sponsored Hooked on Fishing, Not on Drugs fly-fishing clinics for teenagers 12 to 15. Even if you've never fly-fished before, this clinic will teach you the important knots, how to cast properly and how to tie your own flies - all with safety in mind. By the last day of the clinics, our fly-fishers are able to Check out this creek chub caught by Alex Stanka on a fly rod at Harford Glen Environmental Education Center. Alex is accompanied by Jeff Markel, DNR staffer."read" the water, which helps them catch blue gills, largemouth bass and creek chubs. (In 2004, fly-fishing clinics will be offered in the spring and fall.)

At the end of each clinic, participants receive a Hooked on Fishing, Not on Drugs certificate, and a small DNR tackle box, with tackle. This is also the time when fish stories are proudly shared - starring characters like Zeus, the very large catfish, Bubba, the huge largemouth bass, and the many bluegills and sunnies caught.

And, the end of each clinic also marks a new beginning: A future of fun, healthy experiences, shared memories, and a newfound appreciation for our natural world.

Donna Fahres...
is the State Coordinator for the Hooked on Fishing, Not on Drugs' program.  She also provided the photos for this article.

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