NEW BRUNSWICK, N.J. — The New Jersey State Representatives of the International Game Fish Association (IGFA),which include Captain Gene Nigro, Jeffrey Merrill, David Matagiese, and Rich Keller, annually host a two-day Kids’ Fishing Clinic in order to help attract youth audiences to the sport of recreational fishing by providing hands-on educational opportunities with kids and parents both in a classroom setting and at-sea on a fishing boat. This year the IGFA partnered with Rutgers Cooperative Extension (RCE) of Ocean County to host the clinic.
The first day of the program included an all-day educational program with speakers who taught about New Jersey’s recreational fisheries, responsible fishing practices, fisheries biology and fish tagging, and responsible stewardship of marine resources. In addition to David Matagiese and Dr. Zemeckis, other speakers included Jim Hutchinson (The Fisherman Magazine), Jeff Dement (American Littoral Society), and Cindy Zipf (Clean Ocean Action). The engaged group of kids were able to interact with and learn from these experts on local marine issues and were even able to get their hands dirty while handling and learning about different finfish and shellfish species commonly caught in New Jersey’s recreational and commercial fisheries.
The second day of the Kids’ Fishing Clinic included an experiential learning fishing trip aboard the fishing vessel Bingo from Atlantic Highlands, NJ with Captain James Rivelli and his crew. The fishing trip provided the opportunity to solidify lessons taught in the classroom while having the kids fishing out on Raritan Bay. The boat was turned into a floating classroom for the day and the primary target species included summer flounder, while other species caught included northern and striped sea robins, smooth dogfish, and multiple species of skates. Jeff Dement of the American Littoral Society tagged and released many of the under-sized fish as a part of their ongoing volunteer fish tagging program, which provided additional educational opportunities about conservation and fish biology.
“It was very rewarding to see the kids’ excitement when they got to learn about and handle the fish in class, and then catch their own fish while out on the boat. You could tell most of the kids were “hooked” and many found a new hobby to fulfill their sense of adventure and curiosity in the ocean and science,” said marine extension agent Douglas Zemeckis.
Saltwater fishing, both recreational and commercial, is similar to terrestrial farming in that the average age of participants in these industries is increasing and faces difficult challenges with respect to recruiting younger participants. Hosting the Kids’ Fishing Clinic is one way to attract young people. It provides hands-on educational opportunities for kids and parents in a classroom setting and at-sea. This annual program included 18 kids representing grades 4-8 and included collaborations with: Douglas Zemeckis, marine extension agent; Tamara Pellien,4-H agent; and Jeffrey Silady, marine program monitor all from the RCE of Ocean County.
Additional partnerships between the IGFA and RCE are in development in order to continue offering exciting extension programming to meet the needs of youth and adult audiences throughout New Jersey. Funding for the 2019 Kids’ Fishing Clinic was primarily provided by the IGFA, with additional support from the RCE of Ocean County.