Utah Wildlife News
Thursday, 18 February 2010 16:34
Volunteer training starts in March
Want to help a group of kids have one of the best experiences they'll have this spring?
Photo by Brent Stettler
Then volunteer to help a youth fishing club!
The Division of Wildlife Resources is looking for volunteers to teach 6- to 13-year-olds about fish, the places fish live and how to catch them.
Volunteers are needed in communities stretching from Brigham City to Washington City. To learn more about the clubs, and to volunteer to help, visit wildlife.utah.gov/cf/clubs.php.
(You can also listen to a radio interview about the clubs at wildlife.utah.gov/radio.)
Anyone can help
The number of kids who can participate in the clubs is tied directly to the number of adults who volunteer to help. If more adults volunteer to help, more children can participate.
"If you want to help, but you don't know much about fishing, that's OK," says Chris Penne, community fisheries biologist for the DWR. "If you're a positive person, you're patient and you have good communication skills, you have everything we're looking for.
"We'll teach you all of the other skills you'll need to have a great experience with these kids."
Most of the youth fishing clubs start in March and April. But a few begin as late as June.
Most of the clubs meet once a week for six weeks. Each club session lasts about two hours.
The children spend the first 30 minutes of each outing learning a new lesson or skill. After teaching the kids, adult volunteers take them down to the water and help the children use their skills to catch fish!
"The kids look up to their fishing mentors. You're their leader," Penne says. "If you'd like to volunteer, it's best if you can commit to being with your club every time it meets."
Two to three weeks before a club's first meeting, DWR personnel will provide a volunteer training seminar in the community where the fishing club meets. The training takes less than two hours to complete.
Also, all volunteers must consent to and pass a criminal background check. "The DWR and the various communities are committed to keeping the children in the clubs safe," Penne says.
Penne says a number of rewards await those who volunteer. "One of the biggest thrills you'll have is watching a young boy or girl reel in their first fish. Seeing that is priceless," he says.
"It's also rewarding to teach someone a skill they'll be able to use and enjoy the rest of their life. And knowing you're helping get these kids outside, so they can experience the natural world around them, is also very rewarding."
If you have questions, please e-mail Penne at firstname.lastname@example.org.
A popular program
"We had a great turnout in 2009," Penne says. "About 1,500 kids and 300 volunteers participated. Many of the volunteers were folks who volunteered the year before. They had a great experience, and they wanted to help again."
Penne says many of the city recreation departments in Utah have added fishing to the list of sports they offer to kids. That's one of greatest reasons for the program's success. "For the first time, fishing has found its way into mainstream sports, right along with soccer, baseball and football," Penne says.
The number of children and communities involved in the program is growing. "We need volunteers more than ever before," Penne says.
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