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Kids are the Future of Fishing

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Kids are the Future of Fishing

Dana Wharf Sportfishing

By, Donna Kalez

For the last forty years Coastal Conservation Association has been at the forefront of encouraging youth to explore and engage in the marine sciences.  Both fishing and education are a top priority to insure the future of angling and a healthy marine environment.

CCA’s national scholarship fund has supported more than a dozen students to become the next generation of marine scientists.  This great tradition of ocean stewardship continues today with Dana Wharf’s Kid’s Program.  CCA California Board Member and Co-President of Dana Wharf Sportfishing, Donna Kalez, has been instrumental in introducing thousands of kids to fishing.

Through the City of San Clemente’s Parks and Recreation department this past fall, local Dana Point family owned business Dana Wharf Sportfishing completed a sold-out after-school fishing program for middle-school-aged kids. The fishing program has traditionally been a very popular one in south Orange County, attracting both newcomers and skilled youth anglers to come together for a three-hour fishing trip each week after school.

This 5-week program is unique in that it’s the only program of its kind that is offered in Orange County, perhaps even the only one of its kind present in California. Of course – there are plenty of tennis, golf, and team sporting activities available to kids, but what sets Dana Wharf apart, is the unique nature of the activity being an outdoor, on-the-water, full fishing experience.  Dana Wharf’s program helps breaks barriers with its accessibility to any child with a passion for the sea and what lies deep beneath the surface.

The program takes place every Wednesday after school, with the boat departing at 4:15pm and returning to the dock at 7:15pm. While the boat is away from the harbor, the kids are given the opportunity to learn a multitude about fishing techniques, tackle tips, and oceanography from Dana Wharf’s skilled and experienced captains and crew. They’re given the knowledge and tools that they are then able to apply as fishing conditions ebb and flow with each new week of the program.

While some weeks see kids catching calico bass on the surface, with warmer water and good current; other days, the conditions prove better-suited for trolling and catching bonito. No matter the catch, each trip is always full of fun, learning about fishing and new experiences — with three hours of fishing it’s accessible and available to any child who is interested.

During their time on the boats, the kids are also taught about the many different fishing rigs and setups and how to apply them depending on conditions. With each kid bringing a different skill-set and skill-level, coming from varying backgrounds, it becomes a melting pot of information, friendship and fishing, giving kids the opportunity to share their unique abilities and talents with each other and help build self-esteem and camaraderie with peer-to-peer teaching.

The differences in skill-levels for fishing are no different than say — a kids skill-level difference for skateboarding — some are better than others, but at the end of the day, it is still a fun and enjoyable experience for all, and a time to just be a kid and learn about something to become passionate about. One thing has become clear through this program, by the end of each day, when kids bond over a shared love of fishing and helping one another through teaching and learning, that a fun dynamic emerges often hooking young anglers for life.

Many of the kids from the program end up appearing on our longer, open-party trips alone or with friends.  Young graduates love to bring a parent or sibling and show them the ropes. Watching our camp graduates out there on the water, with new learned fishing techniques always puts a smile on our faces and makes it all worthwhile. After all, having fun out on the water is what it’s all about, especially for these kids!

This program, along with our week-long camps that run during the summer, are a great way for kids to make new friends with similar interests and become fishing buddies for life. Kids from all over Southern California — from different cities, schools and backgrounds, get to come together on our boats with the same opportunity to learn and develop their fishing expertise. When you’re out on the water with a line in the water, everyone around you on that boat is on an equal playing field, with each having the same chance to catch that trophy jackpot fish and show off what they can do with a rod.

After all, it is mostly luck out there no matter what some may say! Over the years, we have seen so many whopper fish caught by beginners and first-timers, kids on spinning or rental gear, reeling in the fish of the day. It’s always amazing to see and makes people crazy to have spent hundreds on all the latest set-ups and gear, to only be out-fished by a newbie!

There are a number of non-profit kids fishing programs active in California today. We recommend getting involved or contacting them to learn more about how you can get on the water and introduce kids to the wonderful world of fishing. Many Southern California landings also offer discounts on kids fishing tickets, for a nominal fee. Look for fishing opportunities in your area and introduce a kid to fishing today .

Southern California Kids Programs: