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Conservation program teaches fishing skills, relaxation

Conservation program teaches fishing skills, relaxation

June 24th, 2018 by Bob Watson in Local News

The weather co-operated well, perhaps bringing more families Saturday to the Missouri Conservation Department's annual Kids' Fishing program behind the department's Jefferson City headquarters.

"We've got some great fishing ponds here at the Conservation Department headquarters," Fisheries specialist Andrew Branson said Saturday morning.

He oversees programs that "help people learn how to fish," he explained, adding: "We've got some people who have never fished before — and this is a good way to come out and learn the basics."

Brittany Baldwin, of Jefferson City, brought her son, Kayden, almost 5, to the event, "just to have an opportunity for our family to have some time to spend together and be active in beautiful Missouri."

Kayden spent some time on a parking lot, practicing how to cast — how to release the line so it would go into the water and attract a fish, rather than going sideways to the grass — with volunteer Brenda Hancock, who then went with the mother and son to the small pond.

Baldwin said she's not a fisherman, and the Kids' Fishing Day was "something new for both of us to try, and he's been interested."

Kayden said it's fun and "exciting to catch a fish and then throw it back into the water."

Jason Stapp, of Jefferson City, stood beside the pond and fished with his two sons while his wife, Amanda, snapped pictures of their catch and carried their sleeping third son, only 8 months old.

"We appreciate the opportunity to come out for this since we're in town," Amanda said. "I grew up on a farm and my husband grew up on a farm; it's just nice to have an opportunity to get back to those roots."

Jason added: "It's a good opportunity to teach them about nature and wildlife and how to fish."

The attraction, he said, is "it's something that we've lost as we've moved into the modern day, but it's an opportunity to learn patience and also about animals, wildlife and how to be self-sufficient a little bit."

Soren Stapp, 7, said fishing is "really fun — (especially) reeling the fish in."

Releasing the fish after it's caught also is fun, he added.

His younger brother, Liam, 5, also enjoyed catching a fish but was cautious about touching it or throwing it back into the water.

His father said: "I think there's a little bit of trepidation at first. But after awhile, you teach them that touching fish is OK, and they get an opportunity to have (a) hands-on experience.

"There's a little bit of excitement that happens when you catch a fish, kind of an instant reaction and a good sense of gratification that you've accomplished something."

For the Stapps, fishing these days only is recreational.

But for the King family, the sport can be either for fun or for food.

Christian King, 15, of Jefferson City, learned to fish with his grandmother, who used to work at the Roaring River trout hatchery near Cassville.

"It is a good feeling," he said, to catch a fish and then prepare it for a meal.

But, he added: "I like the feeling of reeling them in. That's my favorite part about it."

His sister, Mia King, 7, had caught seven fish before stopping to be interviewed.

"That's the most I've ever caught," she said.

And then she caught another one.

What does she like about fishing?

"Really, everything," Mia said.

Her father, Bradley King, said the children "really enjoy fishing a lot," adding: "I think it teaches them a lot about nature (and) these old skills that people forget."

He said he enjoys fishing because it's relaxing to spend some time outdoors.

Branson said there are a lot of benefits to fishing, including: "It's shown that it lowers heart rate, and it's relaxing."

Another benefit is exercise.

"There's all the health benefits, again, of being outdoors and walking around; it's an active sport," he said. "You usually have to walk to your fishing spot."

In Missouri, Branson added, "Fishing opportunities are everywhere.

"I'd say everybody in the state has a fishing spot within 15, 20 minutes of them."

Jennifer King, Bradley's wife and Christian and Mia's mother, said her family began attending the department's Kids' Fishing days when they lived in Joplin and have continued the tradition since moving here.

"It's fun for the kids and the whole family," she said.

And Saturday, she said, "I think the weather's perfect for the fish — and for us."