Fishing can connect city kids with the outdoors

It was humid and drizzly — the warmest day of the year so far — but nothing could contain the excitement of these kids. “Are you excited to go fishing?” I asked a young boy named Derrick. His smile was all the answer needed.

More than 40 inner city kids met this past weekend for the annual City Catch sponsored by the Maryland Chapter of Trout Unlimited and the Baltimore City Recreation and Parks Department. An equal number of volunteers from the chapter showed up to help the kids learn to catch fish.

City Catch is carried on today by superstar volunteers. One of them walked me to the creek that the chapter had recently stocked with trout for the kids to catch. “I want to catch a gold fish,” one of the kids yelled. Another responded, “I’m going to catch a whale!” All the kids, most of whom had never handled a fishing rod, caught fish. Rocks were thrown into the water. Before long, a rod was lost in the center of the creek. Another child slipped and soaked his pants and sneakers. In other words, the kids acted like kids on a stream should act.

One of the great challenges we face as a nation is ensuring that the next generation cares about conservation — healthy lands and clean water. In the span of a single generation, America has moved from a society where 60 percent of us grew up in rural areas to one where 80 percent of us live in cities or suburbs. It is essential that we connect people to nature however we can.

Each of the children who showed up was given a rod and reel. At its root, conservation is defined as taking actions today that will make the world a better and healthier place for people tomorrow.

Connecting kids to nature through programs such as City Catch is essential. Derrick asked me if he could fish again if he came back next weekend. I explained that if you take care of creeks and rivers like this one, you can always catch fish. He smiled and said, “That’s what I am going to do. I want to take care of these creeks. And I want to fish again next week!”

Chris Wood, Arlington, Va.

The writer is president and CEO of Trout Unlimited.

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