If you catch it, you have to touch it

June 3, 2012 • Local News

Youngsters try [auth] their luck during the Kids Free Fishing Clinic at the Roswell Walmart, Saturday morning. Mark Wilson Photo

The New Mexico Department of Game and Fish provided children a chance to catch a catfish Saturday at the Roswell Walmart, offering hands-on activities in aquatic education on Free Fishing Day, a statewide annual event that allows residents without a fishing license to fish all day long throughout New Mexico.

With help from Walmart, Sam’s Club and Sunrise Optimist Club, Game and Fish set up four instructional stations at its clinic, free to kids under the age of 12. At the stations, children learned the basics of how to cast and reel a fishing rod, how to tie knots, and also participated in fun activities like fish painting. After completing the first few stations, kids tested their new skills at a pool filled with about 200 catfish, which the anglers caught using hot dogs for bait.

“A lot of kids have never had the experience of actually learning how to cast a fishing rod. Many of them are all wrapped up in the electronic age, this digital age we live in,” Mark Madsen, Game and Fish public information outreach officer, said. “… And, of course, as the Game and Fish Department, that’s very important to us, because that’s the future of our hunters and fishermen. We want to teach them young so that when they get older, they’ll start buying licenses. That’s what funds wildlife conservation in the state of New Mexico.”

Madsen said the value of the clinic is rooted in outdoor activity. “Kids are so wrapped up in the video games, the computer games, TV — and it’s just important to get them outside. Get them out in the sunshine. Whether it’s teaching them how to fish or just getting outside to play sports.”

The annual event drew about 375 children in 2011, and on Saturday had already brought more than 100 kids to the clinic by 8:30 a.m., Madsen said. Roswell Fire Department employees were also on hand to answer questions and offer fire safety tips, and free Frisbees were provided by the Roswell Police Department.

Tyson Sanders, Roswell district officer for Game and Fish, brought his 2-year-old daughter to the clinic, and watched her catch her first fish.

“She was a little excited and a little scared. At first she didn’t want to touch it, and we kind of coaxed her into it,” Sanders said. “She was just thrilled to death. She wanted to catch a big fish and a little fish today. And she did. …

“I think this is something that she’ll remember all her life. I know it’s something I’ll remember my whole life. And I just hope we’re providing that opportunity for every kid who’s out here fishing. I think it’s something that they’ll remember, and it will inspire them to maybe want to go fishing throughout the rest of their life, and maybe it will inspire parents to want to take their kids out fishing when they see how much fun they’re having with their kids doing this type of thing.”

After the clinic, the catfish were stocked in the kids pond at Spring River Park & Zoo and in Lake Van in Dexter. Sanders said the Roswell area also offers catfishing opportunities for fishermen at select locations on the Pecos River, while fishing at the Spring River kids pond is available to children 11 and under.

For more information about fishing locations, contact Game and Fish at 624-6135.

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