Illinois is reaching out to kids with a fishing pole.
Summer is the time to step away from the TV and computer and enjoy what the outdoors has to offer.
This is what the Decatur Park District promotes with the Illinos Urban Fishing Program, a clinic held in Fairview Park throughout the summer for children wanting to learn how to fish. The clinic begins in the main pavilion, where the children are taught the basic techniques, safety and ethics of fishing. Then, the children put their lessons into practice at Dreamland Lake.
"Our goal is to have every child catch a fish before they leave," said Herb Dreier, Illinois Department of Natural Resources Urban Fishing Program coordinator.
Techniques discussed in the presentation portion include underhand casting, how to hold the pole, knowing when to tug and the proper way to release the fish after one is caught.
"I was excited to catch my first fish," said Mia Arguelles, 9, one of the many eager children from the Spectacular Day Camp of the Decatur Indoor Sports Center who came to the program Wednesday. "It felt slimy and watery!"
Mia then demonstrated a "fish sandwich," a method used to throw the fish back in the water by placing a hand on each side of the flopping bluegill she caught. The catch and release program is implemented to ensure a fully stocked pond for future clinics.
Stocked about every two to three weeks with more than 800 fish, Dreamland Lake is available for fishing for children ages 15 and younger, as well as for families who wish to bring their children out with them.
"We encourage parents and grandparents to join their children in this program," said Amy Reynolds, conservation education representative for the park district. "That way, they can fish together on their own and spend more time together while doing constructive outdoor activities."
The program is free, and children can participate as often as they wish. All equipment is provided. The clinic is at 9 a.m. and 1 p.m. Monday through Friday, and it will run through Aug. 4