It’s Time for the Kids

By: Paul MacInnis

Sorry, there are no fish catching tips in this article. There’s nothing here that will make you a better angler, but I guarantee following this advice will make you feel better and may just give you your fondest fishing memories of the year.

Take a kid fishing. Yeah it’s as simple as that. If you don’t have a kid readily available then don’t fear, Anglers for Conservation has your back, and they could use your help.

Anglers for Conservation (AFC) is a 501c3 non-profit whose mission is to inspire new generations of marine stewards through education, conservation, and community outreach. They have a lot of great programs ranging from habitat restoration to veterans fishing events, but their flagship program has to be Hook Kids on Fishing (HKOF). HKOF is a free event that gives kids an hour of angling and conservation education followed by an hour of fishing with guides and experienced anglers, and most kids get to take home a free rod and reel. Over 10,000 kids have participated in HKOF events since its humble beginnings 15 years ago in Satellite Beach.

AFC has over 30 HKOF events planned for this year from Key West all the way to St Marks in the Panhandle. In April and early May they have four events scheduled right here in Brevard County at the Satellite Beach Sports Park, the Merritt Island National Wildlife Refuge Sendler Education Pavilion, Goode Park in Palm Bay and Kiwanis Island Park in Merritt Island. If you want more information on these events visit AFC’s website, www.anglersforconservation.org/. If you want to volunteer contact AFC’s executive director, Mike Conneen at mike@anglersforconservation.org. You don’t need to be an expert angler to be a HKOF volunteer, you just need a desire to help kids.

There are a lot of great reasons to volunteer at a HKOF event. Long time HKOF volunteer, Tammy Wilson says, “I volunteer because fishing saved my life. It was a healthy outlet for me when all of my friends were getting into trouble. If I can offer a healthy outlet to one child, then I feel like I have made a difference.” Mike Conneen adds, “I started volunteering for AFC because I knew both the environment and future generations were in desperate need of help. The Indian River Lagoon provided me with such a memorable childhood and I feel it’s only right to return the favor by paying her back in every way possible. Kids now are experiencing only a fraction of what I had but with enough help, future generations could experience it better than us all.”

I’ve been a HKOF volunteer for ten years. I echo Tammy Wilson’s sentiments. It really feels great to help out kids and know you are making a difference. Personally, I love to see the excitement of a child catching their first fish, and as a HKOF volunteer I’ve been privileged to experience that hundreds of times.

So I urge you to take a kid fishing this month, bring a kid to a HKOF event or volunteer. AFC president Rodney Smith sums it up, “There’s nothing better than to take a kid fishing!”

By Paul MacInnis

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