Like camping, hiking and other outdoor pursuits, the age-old
pastime of fishing is often associated with rural life. But thanks
to some fun, free programs for children and families, fishing is
catching on in Chicago as a modern urban sport.
One such program, Mayor Daley's Fish 'n' Kids Program of the
Chicago Park District, offers free fishing clinics at a variety of
city harbors and lagoons throughout the summer. When Bob Long Jr.,
"The Fishin' Guy!" (yes, that's his job title), began working with
the program in 2000, it served 2,700 children. In 2009, the number
was 11,500 and keeps growing.
The Fish 'n' Kids program, run by the
Chicago Park District, offers free fishing clinics around the city
"Our immediate goal is to help each participant catch at least
one fish right then, right there," Long says. His hope is that a
positive initial experience at an early age will spark a lifelong
enthusiasm for fishing. The clinics are free, but reservations are
required; visit fishingchicago.org or
call (312) 742-4969 for dates and locations.
The Fish 'n' Kids Program also includes a family fishing
headquarters at Northerly Island, which gives parents the
opportunity to learn some basics for fishing with their children.
Kids under the age of 16 don't need a license to fish, but adults
can buy one online at dnr.state.il.us for $15 ($7.75 for
Families who already have some experience with fishing from a
pier may enjoy taking a rowboat out on a pond or small lake. Both
the DuPage County Forest Preserve and the Lake County Forest
Preserve offer boat rentals in the summer.
The Trailside Museum of the Cook County Forest Preserve
District, meanwhile, offers an introduction to the ecology of
fishing through its Fish Camp, a three-morning program for
children age 8-12, which teaches participants about fishing safety,
native and non-native fish, and the preservation of natural
resources needed to keep Illinois waters healthy for fish.
Beginning anglers of all ages can enjoy free, instructed fishing
through the Urban Fishing Program of the Illinois Department of
Natural Resources, which holds clinics at locations throughout the
state. In addition, the Urban Fishing Program makes fishing rods
and tackle available to borrow at selected Chicago libraries. For a
list of loaner tackle sites as well as an online guide to family
fishing, visit ifishillinois.org.
For fishing enthusiasts like Long, watching a child's eyes light
up with the excitement of catching a fish underscores the
importance of sharing his knowledge with a younger generation.
"If a child doesn't fish before the age of 12, that child
probably will never fish," he says. That would be a loss, he adds,
because in fishing, "you don't have to be big, fast, strong or
smart to have success. And unlike in many sports, where
someone will be the loser, in fishing, no one has to lose for
everyone to succeed."
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