Kids Fish & Win!
By Letha Grimes
Little did Bradley, Cody, Bryan or Taylor Mae know when they signed up for local youth fishing rodeos that they soon would be lucky winners of personal fishing trips, coordinated through the Maryland Fishing Challenge.
Trip winners are selected by drawing from more than 20 youth rodeos held across the State each year, and receive their prizes during the Maryland Fishing Challenge Grand Finale.
The Maryland Department of Natural Resources (DNR) partners with fishing organizations, businesses and charter boat captains to provide these exciting expeditions, which in 2011 included trout fishing on the Gunpowder River, largemouth bass fishing on the Potomac, an angling trip on Deep Creek Lake, an Ocean City charter boat voyage and several Chesapeake Bay outings.
Working with these enthusiastic young people and their families is a wonderful, rewarding experience, one that I look forward to each year.
Hosted by Dick Berich of Chesapeake BASS, Cody Wheeler hooked a 3.05-pound channel catfish on a fishing trip with his father, Matt. The excitement of snaring the catfish could be heard all along the banks of Dundee Creek when the 6-year-old from Bel Air returned to the dock, determined to carry his own live-bag to the weigh-in station.
Bradley McDowell of Rising Sun, who caught the largest fish at the 2010 North East Maryland Saltwater Sportfishermen’s Association (MSSA) youth fishing rodeo, won a trip with Arrie Beyer, also of Chesapeake BASS. Beyer took the 13-year-old and his father, Marty, out on Dundee Creek where they caught mostly white perch. Bradley can be found fishing at local ponds about four times a week. In fact, the day before his trip, he won his age division again at the 2011 North East MSSA youth fishing rodeo.
These two young anglers were also invited to participate in the Maryland BASS Federation Nation Junior Bass Angler Qualifier.
Capt. Tom Hughes donated a white perch trip on the Upper Bay to Taylor Mae Edwards, 11, from Essex. Taylor Mae, her dad, Larry, and her cousin, Robbie, caught more than 60 white perch and a few rockfish, and enjoyed a brief historical tour around the Baltimore Harbor.
The young angler was amazed not only by the trip but also by the sight of Fort McHenry, where Francis Scott Key wrote the Star Spangled Banner.
Bryan Brochu, 11, of Rising Sun experienced his very first Chesapeake Bay fishing trip, donated by Steve Linhard of the Maryland Legislative Sportsmen’s Foundation. Bryan, his mom Angela, and younger brother, Sebastian, fished the Bay near Annapolis; they caught plenty of white perch, a few spots and croakers. A croaker was dinner that evening.
Tagging a winner
Every summer, 10 young anglers from Baltimore’s City Catch program accompany DNR staff on a Diamond Jim tagging trip. In 2011, the lucky group joined Capt. Mark Hall of Rock Hall Fishing Charters aboard Gone Fishin’ for an excursion into the Bay. Being on a charter boat for the first time raised their enthusiasm and determination levels.
Once we reached the waters around Sandy Point State Park, it wasn’t long before the first legal striper was in the boat and tagged. While the fishing was a little slow, all of the kids experienced the thrill of reeling in at least one rockfish.
Seeing the kids’ excitement is priceless, as is the appreciation of their parents. Sharing these experiences with the kids and their families, and promoting the great sport of fishing among our young people is unforgettable!
Generous donors of the 2011 Maryland Fishing Challenge trips included: BASS Federation Nation, Bill’s Outdoor World, Coastal Conservation Association, Maryland Charter Boat Association, Maryland Legislative Sportsmen’s Foundation, Maryland Saltwater Sportfishermen’s Association, Mid-Atlantic Council Trout Unlimited, Capt. Mike Benjamin, Capt. Richie Gaines, Capt. Monte Hawkins, Capt. Tom Hughes and Capt. Skip Zinck.
Letha Grimes is a DNR biologist and the Maryland Fishing Challenge Youth Component coordinator.