October 2, 2019 Column
We didn’t set any record for fewest fish caught at last Saturday’s 22nd annual Fall Fishing Day, but we tried. Fifteen of us caught a grand total of three fish (two yellow perch and a chub), the largest one small enough to fit inside your shirt pocket.
We’ve done worse. We’ve had many great years of sunfish, crappies, bass and more, but we’ve also had a number of years of zero bites. And it has never mattered to the kids. It is always a day of smiles, laughter, and good, wholesome fun.
Our Fall Fishing Day has never been about catching lots of fish. It’s a morning of education – a morning of learning about things like safety, conservation, fish anatomy, teamwork, courtesy, stewardship, equipment, and so much more. And we go fishing – something that some of our Trail Guard kids have never had the chance to do.
And we have Michelle Kelly. Michelle worked for the Minnesota DNR for 18 years as an education specialist. She was hired by the Fish and Wildlife Outreach Section to help re-work the curriculum for their youth aquatic education and fishing program known as MinnAqua, and led the development of MinnAqua’s “Fishing: Get in the Habitat!” Leader’s Guide, an effort that earned numerous national recognitions.
Michelle is an educator at heart, and rarely misses a learning opportunity. After sharing stories of their first fish caught, the kids learned how fish navigate through their world – how they feel, smell, taste, see, and so much more.
They learned the history of “fish printing,” a practice used by people before the days of photography to create a history of their fishing successes. The kids used rubber fish models, paints, and paper to make their own fish prints to take home. Then we went fishing where the Nature Park’s Crow River flows into Lake Koronis.
Fish or no fish, I guarantee that the lessons from Saturday’s Fall Fishing Day will stay with these kids for a long, long time. Thanks to everyone involved – especially to the West Central Chapter of the Minnesota Darkhouse and Anglers Association (New London/Spicer), who regularly sponsors this event, and Michelle Kelly for running an excellent program.