A View from Here

Bill's Sisson's weekly Trade Only blog

Kids, crabbing and a white marlin necropsy

My son and I spent the last two evenings scurrying around a dock, carrying a long-handled net and wearing headlamps as we checked lines baited with chicken legs. We were crabbing in the waning days of summer. And, yes, these were school nights for my seventh-grader, too.

But there will be plenty of time for school, and, besides, the crabs and the season will be gone in a couple of blinks. I grab any opportunity I can to get my kids on or around the water and out from behind a computer or other indoor distraction. We all know the importance of young people to the long-term health of our industry. Anything we can do individually or as an industry to get a net, fishing rod, tiller or wheel into the hands of a young person is a good thing.

To that point, I want to give a shout out to the first Youth Fishing Camp organized by the New Jersey Audubon Nature Center of Cape May, N.J. The weeklong day camp, held in late August, attracted 30 kids (with others on a waiting list) and a number of marine and tackle sponsors.

“These kids are the future of recreational fishing,” Nature Center director Gretchen Whitman says in a statement. “Without new, young fishing enthusiasts, the sport will wither.”

The highlights of the week included a family fishing trip on the party boat Cape May Lady and a field trip to the Canyon Club Resort Marina in Cape May, one of the hosts of the Mid-Atlantic $500,000 marlin tournament.

There the children got to watch John Graves, of the Virginia Institute of Marine Sciences, conduct a necropsy on a white marlin caught in the tournament, according to Mark Allen, who works at the marina as the tournament coordinator and promoter and boat show manager.

“That was a hoot,” Allen told me yesterday. “They loved it.”

Allen, I think, speaks for many of us when he talks about what young people mean for boating and fishing.

“The kids are everything,” he says. “You have to grow. The economy is thinning people out. Old age is thinning people out. You have to get that enthusiasm. Kids are the future of fishing.”

The pragmatic side of Allen notes, “It’s business. We sell boats and fishing tournaments. Without the kids coming in …”

The fishing camp has a nice back story, too. The pilot project by the Nature Center was funded in large part by the McKinnon Family Foundation in memory of Coast Guard Cmdr. Guy Hill Buckelew, who was a passionate fisherman.

The lead instructor for the week was Norm Smith, a retired teacher, former lifeguard and boat captain who Allen calls a “waterman extraordinaire and a great guy.”

“Norm really taught them about life, too,” says Allen. “He told them that life is a lot like fishing. It’s all about the three Ps: preparation, practice and patience. If you learn those, you’ll probably be successful in life, too. Norm is a big guy. He’s hard not to listen to.”


2 comments on “Kids, crabbing and a white marlin necropsy

  1. Gretchen Whitman

    Thanks Bill. This is awesome. Any exposure we can get to let folks know what we are trying to accomplish is great. We are cetainly off to a good start, but additional funding will need to be secured to keep it going. We are even looking into remodeling a classroom building, storage shed and possibliy a pontoon boat. Yes, we have big dreams but the demand appears to be there and we have gained such positve feedback. I’ll just finish with this: if any of your readers are interested in helping us grow our Youth Fishing Program through funding, in-kind product donations or their expertise please call me at 609-898-8848.

  2. John Wooldridge

    Keep up the great work with your kids, Bill. Don’t think for a moment that it won’t make a difference. After taking my two boys to the islands several times, going through their boating certification classes with them, Nd enrolling them in junior sailing programs at an early age, it pained me to see them lose the boating focus in their late teens to follow performance street cars. Ten years later, their desires to borrow the boat, or press me for a date about a return to the islands, hints of time well spent and good times afloat still to come.

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