Idaho Fish And Game Events Aim To Get More Kids Hooked On Fishing

Apr 25, 2014

Evin Oneale with the Idaho Department of Fish and Game helps a girl get set up with a fishing rod. The fishing trailer events are part of the department's strategy to get young people interested in the sport.
Evin Oneale with the Idaho Department of Fish and Game helps a girl get set up with a fishing rod. The fishing trailer events are part of the department's strategy to get young people interested in the sport.
Credit Frankie Barnhill / for Boise State Public Radio

Idaho’s Department of Fish and Game is on a mission to create the next generation of anglers. One of the ways they’re doing that is by hosting free events where they teach kids the basics of fishing.

On a recent windy spring day at McDevitt Park in West Boise, a trailer with the Idaho Fish and Game logo is parked by a small manmade pond. Department employee Chelsea Lundy helps a mom and her daughter put a big fat nightcrawler on a hook, along with a marshmallow.

Fish and Game is hosting more than 30 of these events through June. They pull up a big trailer filled with fishing poles, bait and nets to locations around Southwest Idaho -- and set up shop for the afternoon.

Evin Oneale is in charge of these events. He says the department is hosting them for a pretty straightforward reason.

“It’s no secret to anybody who’s paying attention that kids are spending less and less time outdoors and more time tied to their Xboxes and Nintendos and their phones for goodness sakes," says Oneale. "This is one effort to try to get kids away from those electronic devices and connected back to the outdoors.”

He says the fishing trailers are an accessible way for families to give the sport a try. Participants don’t need a license. But the hope is to -- pardon the pun -- get kids “hooked” on fishing. And so far, this strategy is working: since outreach events like this began in 2006, license sales among juniors has steadily increased.

This graph shows the dramatic increase in junior license sales that happened between 2005-2006. That year the department began doing outreach events that eventually became the fishing trailers, and the increase has been steady since then.
This graph shows the dramatic increase in junior license sales that happened between 2005-2006. That year the department began doing outreach events that eventually became the fishing trailers, and the increase has been steady since then.
Credit Emilie Ritter Saunders / Boise State Public Radio

“If we can get these kids excited about fishing at a young age they turn into lifelong anglers and they turn into lifelong supporters of the department," Oneale says.

Laney Peck is one of those kids. She’s six-years-old, and she’s has never caught a fish before. Her mom Kim doesn’t like fishing, but she encourages her daughter from the bank.

Six-year-old Laney Peck reels in her line at McDevitt Pond in West Boise. Her mom Kim says the event makes it easy to try the sport.
Six-year-old Laney Peck reels in her line at McDevitt Pond in West Boise. Her mom Kim says the event makes it easy to try the sport.
Credit Frankie Barnhill / for Boise State Public Radio

Kim says the program works because the trailer and the Fish and Game employees make fishing simple.

“We would not be fishing today unless they were doing this," says Kim.

Kim says she’s squeamish around worms and fish, and that her husband is usually the one to take her kids fishing.

“The fishing isn’t my thing. And we don’t have fishing licenses right now, so you can…”

And just then, Laney’s bobber dips under the water. In the jumble the little girl hands the pole to her mom who reels in a small trout. And just like that, Laney has her first fish story.

Kim Peck reels in her six-year-old daughter's first fish.
Kim Peck reels in her six-year-old daughter's first fish.
Credit Frankie Barnhill / for Boise State Public Radio

“I knew I caught something, I was going to try it again then something hooked on,” Lainey says.

The state had just stocked the pond, and after Lainey landed her first catch kids started reeling in trout in left and right. Fish and Game is hoping its moments like these that will keep kids fishing for years to come.

Copyright 2014 Boise State Public Radio