MuskogeePhoenix.com, Muskogee, OK

Sports

June 6, 2014

Free fishing means family memories

When you take a kid fishing for the first time, they may not remember it, but you will.

My wife and I took our son fishing when he was about 10 months old at a farm pond of a friend, Dan Chepkauskas. Thank goodness a fish bit the lure because keeping a kid that young interested for very long wasn’t easy. I’m glad his mom was with us.

Oklahomans looking to experience something new with the family this summer may want to give fishing a try. A great time for that will be Saturday and Sunday during Oklahoma’s Free Fishing Days, which allow people to fish without state fishing licenses or permits.

“Free Fishing Days gives people a chance to just test the waters and see if they would enjoy the sport,” said Ken Cunningham, Assistant Chief of Fisheries for the Wildlife Department. “We are confident they will.”

When I spoke this week with Northeast Regional Fisheries Supervisor Josh Johnston, he was excited to tell me that Zebco had donated prizes for tagged fish that will be put into Mohawk, Veterans, and LaFortune Parks in Tulsa.

Urban areas across the state offer angling opportunities through the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation’s Close to Home Fishing program, which provides quality fishing opportunities without a long drive from home. Anglers also have access to public lakes, rivers, streams and ponds across the state.

People who just don’t know where to start can turn to the “Where to Fish” map found in the Wildlife Department’s “Oklahoma Fishing” regulations guide, available online at wildlifedepartment.com or where fishing licenses are sold.

Anglers may also sign up to receive the weekly Oklahoma Fishing Report.

Compiled by Wildlife Department personnel and independent reporters, the report reveals inside information on the best places to go fishing, when the fish are biting and what baits they are hitting the most.

Anglers can also have the fishing report e-mailed to them by subscribing at wildlifedepartment.com/fishing/fishrpt.htm.

 Participants in Free Fishing Days should note that certain city permits may still apply to specific fishing areas. Also, all of Lake Texoma is open for free fishing on Saturday but will only apply to the Oklahoma portion of the lake on Sunday.

Oklahoma was the first state in the nation to offer Free Fishing Days about 30 years ago and has since been followed by dozens of other states. While fishing is free on those days, anglers still must abide by all other fishing regulations including daily bag limits and size restrictions.

The website for Oklahoma Kids Fishing provides the following tips to making the first few outings a success with the youngsters:

• Keep it simple;

• Begin by fishing for panfish (bluegill, perch, sunfish) or catfish.  Success is  more important than species;

• Make it a short trip to a nearby body of water;

• Pack a fun lunch and make it part of the experience;

• Take time to throw rocks or sticks in the water along the way. Kids love that;

• Use simple bait and tackle;

• Focus your praise on participation rather than catching;

• Share the beauty of the outdoors with them during this time;

• Be ready to quit when they are done;

• Set a good example for conservation and preserving our fisheries;

• Teach them “Catch and Release” when appropriate.

I recently read this phrase and it really stuck. Once upon a time, no one discussed the benefits of taking a child fishing. No one needed to, because everyone was doing it.

Get a newcomer hooked on fishing.

John Kilgore’s outdoor column runs Fridays in the Phoenix. To reach him with news or comments, call (918) 348-9431 or email him at jkilgoreoutdoors@yahoo.com.

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