Fishing lessons offered as anti-drug bait

August 07, 1994|By JoAnne C. Broadwater | JoAnne C. Broadwater,Special to The Sun

When 12-year-old Todd Taylor landed a 1 1/2 -pound largemouth bass at the Harford Glen Environmental Education Center in Bel Air last week, the excited cries of the Joppa seventh-grader and his friends rang through the woods along the banks of the Atkisson Reservoir on Winters Run.

"Remember that feeling," said Larry Feeley, a Perry Hall Middle School science teacher and sports fisherman who was their instructor for a free four-day fishing clinic sponsored by the Maryland Department of Natural Resources.

Mr. Feeley hopes that Todd and the other Harford County boys and girls who participated in the "Hooked On Fishing, Not On Drugs" program share his enthusiasm for the sport.

"Children get really fascinated when you show them how something works," said Joanna Rawlings, 18, a Harford Community College sophomore and Mr. Feeley's assistant. "You can develop them into little environmentalists."

The primary purpose of the clinic was to encourage fishing as an alternative to drug abuse. Between 150 and 200 children ages 7 to 13 have participated in one of five morning or afternoon sessions at Harford Glen since July 11. The final session will be held this week.

This is the first year that the program, which has federal and state financing and an annual budget of $100,000, is being offered in Harford County. The program began with a pilot event in Anne Arundel County in 1989. It now is held at 10 sites throughout the state and has served about 2,000 children this summer.

"We want to get children and their families involved as responsible users of the outdoors and give them constructive alternatives to drug abuse," said Cindy Grove, a state natural resources manager who developed the program.

"I like it because you get the fish and you get to have fun," said Rebekah Lashof, 7, of Bel Air, who came to the clinic with sister, Rachael, 9.

During the program, Tfc. Jerry Skrzypiec of the Maryland State ++ Police talked about drug abuse risks.

"People think when they take drugs they get away from their problems," he told the children. "But they only have more. Instead of doing something healthy, they're just interested in their next fix. You guys are doing something here that's an excellent way to have a good time and forget about your troubles."

The youngsters studied the characteristics of fish and talked about pollution and its environmental effects. They learned about tackle and knot tying, seined for bait fish, discussed safe and responsible fishing and practiced casting at land targets.

Led by Sgt. Dan Hughes of the Maryland Natural Resources Police, they performed a drill to see how fast they could don a life jacket in an emergency.

Participants also learned how to hold and release a fish and finally were ready for fishing expeditions at Harford Glen and Rocks State Park.

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