I was recently contacted regarding taking part with a focus group regarding the potential local impact of a pilot Urban Fishing Program. Some of the issues planned for discussion are opportunities presented to the community through community engagement, ecological stewardship, and youth programming.
Unfortunately, family schedules did not allow me to attend the focus group meeting. I submitted these thoughts via email:
"I will be unable to attend this meeting.
I imagine you would value feedback and opinions all the same, so I will share mine with you:
Today’s youth are the future stewards and protectors of our natural resources. People won’t give effort to protecting what they do not appreciate. Fewer of today’s youth spend time enjoying the Great Outdoors (I’m referring to prairie, forests, streams and lakes,.. not outdoor athletic fields) than any generation in history. It isn’t the fault of the children or the parents, it is simply the result of the world migrating to high-population urban areas.
ANYTHING that can be done to get kids to enjoy and appreciate nature is a good thing, and will benefit the future of our natural areas.
I feel fishing is a major activity that can hold a child’s attention and interest, and can also teach them why conservation of plant, animal, land and water resources is so important. Everything is intertwined. Land practices affect water quality, water quality affects wildlife in and around it.
Unlike hunting, fishing allows direct contact with nature, without requiring that contact to result in death. Fishing while practicing catch & release ethics is important. Catching any size fish is fun, bigger fish are even more fun and challenging to catch. We can teach kids that releasing a fish caught today gives everyone the chance to catch that fish again later when it has grown even more.
An Urban Fishing Program is important, to teach that fishing does’t need to be a costly activity, or one that requires a lot of travel to far-off destinations. I live in Ankeny, and Ankeny has done a WONDERFUL job of requiring ponds to be part of many of the development projects within the city limits. There are currently over 20 public ponds in Ankeny!!! There isn’t such a concentration of places to fish in the rest of the Des Moines Metro area, but there certainly are some places. These would include Gray’s Lake, Easter Lake, Copper Creek Lake, DM River, Raccoon River, Blue Heron Lake in Raccoon Valley Park, a couple of public park ponds in Urbandale, various smaller retention ponds in newer developments, that may or may not be open to public fishing (if they aren’t…they should be!).
For residents of Ankeny, this means there is a place to fish within a reasonable bicycle ride for many kids, or a short car ride for adults. It is important to note that most of the ponds aren’t actively managed to produce better or more fish. In general, the ponds are stocked following construction, then left to their own devices. Ron White and I are currently working on a project, initiated by Ron, in conjunction with the City of Ankeny and Ben Dodd (Fisheries Manager with the Department of Natural Resources), to start managing some ponds better.
One thing that should be done with an Urban Fishing Program, is to stress the use of artificial lures. The use of live baits such as nightcrawlers or minnows often results in fish mortality because the hook isn’t set quickly, and the fish have time to swallow the hook deep into their throat or stomach. Actively casting and retrieving artificial lures usually results in a quicker hookset in the front of the mouth area. In many cases, de-barbing hooks can further reduce damage to caught fish. Few fish shake the hook free during the fight even with de-barbed hooks. Another benefit of de-barbed hooks in an Urban Fishing Program is that if a kids accidentally hooks someone else, themselves, or articles of clothing, a de-barbed hook will slide out easily, and generally require no first aid or clothing damage.
These are some of my intitial thoughts, perhaps you can share them at the group meeting?