Nearly 300 kids ages 8 through 12 attended the 16th annual Kiwanis Fishing Day Clinic held at the Buckroe Fishing Pier in Hampton on July 19th. Made possible by the Club’s Capital District Southeast Region arm, the event brought community groups together to teach children fishing skills, water-safety tips, and the importance of environmental stewardship.
“This is a wonderful opportunity for kids who may not have access to the water, to fishing, or to anything related to the coastal lifestyle,” says Susanna Musick, Marine Recreation Specialist with Marine Advisory Services at VIMS. “Usually it’s about 300 kids every year and at the end of the day everyone gets to take home a fishing rod with these newly found skills, so hopefully they can continue the practice of fishing when they get older.”
At the same time aspiring anglers were learning important skills, they were also serving an important role in the study of marine finfish by looking for any caught fish previously tagged by participants in the Virginia Game Fish Tagging Program. The program, a joint venture between VIMS and the Virginia Marine Resources Commission, employs the volunteer services of trained recreational anglers who tag and release selected species to better understand their movements and behavior. The program currently monitors red drum, black drum, cobia, flounder, speckled trout, black sea bass, tautog, spadefish, sheepshead, and gray triggerfish.
“If you put a tag into a fish and release it, you can learn where it's moved to and how much it's grown when someone reports a recapture,” says Musick. “I think our longest-term recapture was a tautog about nine years after it was originally tagged.” Participants also assisted by finding untagged fish, which subsequently were tagged and quickly released back into the wild. The fish of the day was the black sea bass, with 9 of the 10 newly tagged fish representing this species (a summer flounder was the other catch).
For Wesley Brown, member of the Smithfield Kiwanis Club and founder of the clinic, the growth and success of the event has been fun to watch. The initial inspiration came when the Lt. Governor of the Kiwanis Capitol District, knowing Brown’s interest in fishing, asked him in 2001 to organize an event to share his passion. Starting with 32 participants, the Fishing Day Clinic has grown to more than 300 children in recent years.
”I’ve got one kid that comes out [to the event] who was probably 3½-feet tall when we first started,” says Brown. “He came to fish at the pier, and he caught a rockfish that was almost as big as he was. Now he’s in college, and he helps me out with the kids.”
Volunteers from other community organizations, including the YMCA, Boys and Girls Clubs, and church camps, assist attendees by serving food and drinks, as well as providing guidance and encouragement. “It’s great because a lot of them have never been fishing before, so it’s cool to see them do it for the first time,” says first-time volunteer Andrew Baker from the YMCA. “It’s great. I’m really enjoying this.”
It’s a reflection echoed by others, including Brown and Musick.
“It’s a wonderful event and I love participating,” says Musick. “It gets kids out on the water and fosters stewardship in the Chesapeake Bay and hopefully an interest in fishing, too.”
“I like to see the smiles on the kids’ faces, and if we can improve a child’s life, we’ve done it,” says Brown.
List of participants with tagged fish:
- Colby Tubbs, black sea bass (7")
- Gabriel Brown, black sea bass (7’’)
- Jeremiah Palacious, black sea bass (6.75’’)
- Khalil Brooks, black sea bass (7’’)
- Deanita Kirtley (adult chaperone), black sea bass (7.5’’)
- Kate Williams, summer flounder (11’’)
- Brianna Wimerly, black sea bass (7’’)
- Ashton Pressey, black sea bass (6’’)
- Kaedin Rush, 6.5" black sea bass (6.5’’)
- Aubrey Gergets, black sea bass (6.5’’)
If you find a fish that has been tagged by the Virginia Game Fish Tagging Program, visit https://www.vasaltwaterjournal.com/report_tagged_fish.php to record its information.