ESCANABA – In an effort to increase youth participation in the sport of fishing, Bay de Noc Great Lakes Sport Fisherman, Inc. recently donated fishing kits to local libraries and harbor masters for youth to use. to rent out. This program originated at the Escanaba Public Library in March 2019, with the Fisherman’s Club responding to a grant request made by the library to purchase and distribute fishing rods to local youth. More recently, the club has expanded its program to include Gladstone Public Library, Gladstone City Harbor Master and Escanaba Marina Harbor Master.
“One of our main goals as a club is to support youth fishing and encourage youth fishing activities, so we have started this rod verification process and project,” Bay de Noc Great Leaks Sport Fisherman, Inc. board member Rich Beauvais said. “Fishing is a fun activity that kids can get involved in. It helps them get out of the house and do something.”
Bay de Noc Great Lakes Sport Fishermen, Inc. is a local club dedicated to restoring, promoting and developing fishing in the Little and Big Bay of Noc. The club, which has over 400 members, actively organizes community events to ensure that the sport of fishing and the industry it brings to our local community stays alive. Part of this process is introducing children to sports.
“We realized as a club that fishing, like hunting and other outdoor recreation, struggles to get young people out,” said Beauvais. “It takes a certain amount of equipment and materials to do some of these activities, so providing that to kids will help them get involved early.”
Each pole comes equipped with a basic bobber, sinker and carabiner that lets kids put a hook on the line. Rods also come with their own miniature tackle boxes, which contain a variety of jigs, soft baits and additional hooks, floats and sinkers for renters to test out. The Escanaba Library currently houses 10 fishing rods, while the other three locations hold eight. Pole reels are also available in a small variety.
“There are two types of reels available. Open face spools, where you can actually see the line on the spool, then closed face spools, where the line is closed,” said Beauvais. “There’s a little different technique when using these different reels, so kids will be more comfortable with one or the other.”
Fishermen’s club members pre-planned pole distribution locations, hoping to provide local children with rental accommodation with nearby access to water. While Harbor Masters is located directly on the water, Gladstone and Escanaba Libraries are within walking distance of Little Bay de Noc.
“The harbours, both at Gladstone and at Escanaba, are excellent places for fishing”, said Beauvais. “When I was a child, I fished in the port of Escanaba all along the coast, in the holds of boats, everywhere. It is therefore an ideal place for children to fish.
Gladstone Public Library is looking forward to integrating the fishing rod program into its regular services. Once children have signed a parental permission slip, they can rent the poles as if they were borrowing a library book.
“It’s a great service, especially being so close to the harbor and the lake,” Kari Fassbender, media assistant at Gladstone Public Library, said. “There are so many kids in the area who already enjoy going fishing there, so this service will be great for them.”
The Fisherman’s Club provided services and events for young people long before its rod rental program was established. In fact, the club organizes an annual event “AYA” Tournament, which stands for Angler Young Angler. This event, which will take place on August 27, associates two young people with two fishermen during a one-day fishing tournament. Prizes are awarded to groups with the best catches.
“To show these kids more how to use the rods, use the gear and where to fish, I think that will go a long way in driving this program,” said Beauvais. “Once these kids start catching, they tend to get hooked and get really excited about fishing.”
In addition to increasing youth engagement, the Fisherman’s Club is also working with the Department of Natural Resources to help restore fish populations in Nocs Bay. The club annually raises walleye, trout and whitefish from egg to fry. Once the fish reach the fry stage, they are released into the bays.
“We are working with the DNR, the Indian community and the local community to make this all happen,” said Beauvais. “We even raise some of these fry to seven or eight inches before releasing them back into the bay in the fall.”
Hoping to expand its rod and rod program, the Fisherman’s Club plans to offer a few youth fishing clinics by the end of the summer. Although the club already participates in Children’s Fishing Day at Pocket Park, an annual event in partnership with the DNR, these fishing clinics would show local youth the basics of the sport, including technique, lessons on hooks and jigs, and find the best places to fish.
“We encourage children to take advantage of this program and the upcoming youth clinics,” said Beauvais. “With a pole, a hook, a reel and a worm, you can develop a very fun hobby.”