I’ve always been told there is no such thing as a bad kid with a fishing pole in his hand. Now I can’t say that is always true, but for the most part my experiences with kids and fishing do seem to back that up.

A couple of weeks ago, myself and fellow co-workers, along with a host of other volunteers, spent several days with Meigs County fifth-graders doing a fishing activity proposed by Meigs County Sheriff Keith Wood. The intended audience was 264 fifth-graders representing Eastern, Meigs and Southern local school districts.

Kountry Resort Campground near Five Points happily opened their gate and made a stocked pond available for the youngsters, and Michelle Stumbo with the Meigs County Ohio State University Extension Office, and school resource deputies from the Meigs County Sheriff’s Department also presented anti-drug activities.

Most of the young people had been fishing before, and had even caught fish in the past (I asked), but for a few of them this was a new experience; learning to cast, learning the various types of baits used (such as topwater lures), learning about the bodies of water in Ohio, and the other wildlife that calls them home, and then actually fishing. The resource officers handled the anti-drug education part of the program.

Time have certainly changed from when I was a boy. Today the boys and girls are pretty much the same when it comes to things like baiting their own hooks, catching fish, and then taking them off of the line. You girls rock!

They caught many fish, mostly green sunfish, bluegill, and largemouth bass, and even the occasional frog and turtle (which were released unharmed). All of the fish were released by the way, and I didn’t see any of them floating afterwards which is a good sign. In any event the herons and raccoons need to eat too; nothing gets wasted.

Hooked on Fishing, Not on Drugs was an anti-drug, fishing activity in the 1990s and early 2000s before it was replaced by the Passport to Fishing program. HOFNOD, as it was called for short, technically no longer exists, but with Sheriff Wood’s background as a wildlife officer during that time period it was only natural that he would model an activity after it.
Since HOFNOD no longer exists as an official lesson plan, we were free to improvise and did. My portion of the lesson included things like knot tying, fish identification, fish handling and safety, but since I am the wildlife specialist there was a healthy dose of wildlife, particularly aquatic mammals, that are found near or in Ohio’s rivers, lakes, ponds, and streams.

I’m not going to lie, the afternoons were hot and miserable, but the kids didn’t seem to notice, not as long as they were catching fish that is. Even the rain storms held off. Many a worm took one for the team those four days, and it’s probably not an exaggeration to say I heard “I need a worm!” several hundred times – occasionally accompanied by a bobber and hook swinging from the end of a fishing rod just inches away from my eyes. (Note: no children or adults were snagged by a hook during the four days).

One thing that was refreshing to see: not a single kid I saw holding a fishing pole acted like they’d rather be playing with their cell phone. Perhaps there is hope.

Frog gigging workshop

The public is invited to attend a free workshop on Sunday, June 3, focusing on the basics of frog gigging, according to the Ohio Department of Natural Resources.

Topics to be covered by ODNR Division of Wildlife officials include techniques and equipment used, regulations, and cleaning and cooking frogs. The course is in preparation for the frog gigging season which opens June 8.

The workshop will take place 5-8 p.m. at ODNR-Division of Wildlife District 4 Office at 360 E. State Street, Athens. Participants will be able to practice gigging by a pond, so dress appropriately.

Pre-registration is required by June 1 as space is limited. Please contact Chelsea Gilkey at 740-589-9930 for more information or to register. No fishing license is required, and all ages are welcome.

Jim Freeman is the wildlife specialist for the Meigs Soil and Water Conservation District. He can be contacted weekdays at 740-992-4282 or at [email protected]