By Douglas Warren, Decatur-Early Birds Kiwanis Club
Last year, members of the Decatur-Early Birds Kiwanis Club in Illinois, U.S., held free fishing programs for children through the Teach a Kid to Fish initiative. Participants included school groups, members of the local Boys and Girls Club, individual families and more.
The program is led by Herb Dreier, who has held many similar activities for kids in the past.
“It allows kids to put aside electronic gadgets and the Cromebook to — in many cases for the first time — experience the ageless challenge of a string, a hook, some bait and the wily fish,” says Dreier. “We encouraged parents to join, along with teachers and club volunteers.”
Early Bird club members assisted with baiting hooks and removing fish. Members and local businesses donated fishing equipment for the participants to use.
Dreier starts each fishing trip with a short educational session. His instruction includes general safety (on an individual level and for the other participants), fishing techniques, where to drop a line, and how to bait, hook and remove a fish. He used a live fish to demonstrate proper handling and release methods.
Each group fished for about one hour, with the goal of every participant catching at least one fish. Most succeeded, some with multiple catches.
“The excitement of successfully catching fish is especially important for kids and adults to be ‘hooked’ on fishing,” says Dreier. “Many of our youth had never touched a fish when they first arrived. Participants are encouraged to remove fish from their hooks, but help was always available. Many who were reluctant to even touch a worm when they first arrived wound up baiting their hooks and removing fish.
“Many parents do not know how to fish. Our goal is to have kids and parents learn together, with further hopes that they would want to fish again without our assistance. In today’s electronic age, fishing is a wholesome outdoor activity that can become a lifetime hobby. This program also offers kids, parents and Kiwanians a unique opportunity to work together in an outdoor setting.”
In 2022, the club held 13 Teach a Kid to Fish programs that engaged over 200 participants. Several schools have already scheduled field trips for this spring, and the club is upgrading fishing equipment in preparation. Members hope to offer fishing excursions for students and their grandparents, as well.
“Teach a Kid to Fish is our signature program,” Dreier says, “and it’s the talk of the town.”
Douglas Warren is the lieutenant governor of the Illinois and Eastern Iowa Kiwanis District Division 27 and secretary of the Decatur-Early Birds Kiwanis Club.