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Exemplary anglers share their passion for fishing

Fish Busters' Bulletin

Monday, May 02, 2011

Media contact: Bob Wattendorf

If you really want to know why fishing is fun, all you have to do is take children out and watch the stream of emotions that light up their faces as they learn to bait a hook, cast and finally hook and retrieve a fish. The joy of learning, the reconnection with nature and our heritage, and the fulfillment of knowing they can catch their own - just like the pioneers - contribute to those sensational smiles.

Conservation agencies, guides, facility planners, anglers and boaters share roles in making fishing more fun and satisfying for everyone on the water. They all have an abiding love for aquatic resources and the conservation stewardship ethic that help keep our natural resources pristine.

The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) is striving to create the next generation that cares through a variety of education and outreach programs across the state. However, what makes these programs work are the staff and volunteers. They are the unsung heroes of this movement to connect children and nature.

For instance, Mike Lesso and Dave Morse, who work with the FWC's Jacksonville Youth Summer Fishing Clinics, have taught more than 50,000 children to fish. 

"Mike, a high school teacher and avid sportsman, and Dave, a retired businessman and passionate recreational and tournament fisherman, have been teaching children how to catch fish for so long that many of their earliest pupils now have children of their own," said Eddie Leonard, their supervisor from the FWC's Division of Freshwater Fisheries Management.

"It's apparent when observing these two that they love what they are doing," Leonard said. 

Youth summer fishing clinics help kids appreciate freshwater resources and teach them the skills needed to catch fish. "These incredible experiences are delivered completely free of charge to participants," he added.

The duo typically conducts two workshops per day in the Jacksonville area, throughout the summer, reaching more than 5,000 students during summer break some years. Classes begin with a 30-minute lecture on ethical angling, water pollution, fish biology, tackle and techniques, and several other topics. 

"Then the fun starts," Leonard said. They take the kids to the water's edge. Some children get frustrated easily or seem distracted at first. However, once someone catches the first fish, they are all very much in the moment. 

"The expressions on the faces of the kids catching that first fish are nothing short of fantastic," Leonard said.

There always seems to be that one kid who stands out as a true angler, Leonard explained. "One little girl at a recent event was so successful that she offered to show the other kids how it was done. The student became the teacher in 90 minutes." 

The FWC maintains more than 80 fish management areas statewide and manages public fisheries in rivers and lakes. Partners help by providing bait, tackle, advertisements, supporting materials and fish camps around the state.

"This is a great program showcasing multiple partnerships and the incredible work of dedicated volunteers," Leonard said. To learn more about fish camps in freshwater and fishing clinics in saltwater, visit

The following checklist makes fishing more enjoyable, safe and sustainable for everyone, including future generations.

An Ethical Angler:

  • Promotes, through example and mentoring, an ethical use of aquatic resources.
  • Values and respects the aquatic environment and all living things, including other anglers and boaters.
  • Never dumps pollutants, such as gas or oil, or tosses pieces of fishing equipment or trash on the ground or in the water.
  • Purchases required fishing licenses and permits. (See
  • Learns and obeys angling and boating regulations and can identify fish to adhere to the rules.
  • Keeps no more fish than needed for consumption. Uses tackle and techniques that minimize harm to fish and carefully handles and releases alive all fish that are unwanted or prohibited by regulation.
  • Takes precautionary measures to prevent the spread of exotic plants and animals and does not use diseased or nonnative baits.
  • Participates in conservation efforts such as cleanups, transplanting, tagging and creel surveys.
  • Practices safe angling and boating.
  • Protects animals and the environment from damage caused by careless boat operation.
  • Conserves energy and water on a daily basis, knowing how it affects local fish and wildlife.
Fishing license sales, matching federal funds and donations support these programs. The law generally requires fishing licenses if you are between 16 and 65 years old. However, many anglers know that buying a license helps fund fish and wildlife conservation, so they voluntarily buy one as a way of showing their stewardship ethic. In addition, you can donate to Florida Youth Fishing and Hunting Programs when you purchase a license.

FWC Facts:
According to the National Survey of Fishing, Hunting & Wildlife-Associated Recreation, 66.1 million people engage in wildlife observation, spending about $38.5 billion per year.

Learn More at AskFWC