Fishing and Fun at the Washington Park Pond
Dozens of Milwaukee children learned about the joys of fishing and the great outdoors at a how-to event at Washington Park.
The Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources introduced dozens of kids to the joys of fishing and the great outdoors at an event Saturday at the Washington Park Pond. Also in attendance were several local and state dignitaries.
The two-hour program, designed to give children a glimpse into state’s urban youth fishing program, included a number of demonstrations, including a how-to on casting a rod and reeling in a fish.
The young participants also saw a demonstration on how to clean and filet fish from the Inner City Sportsmen’s Club before the fish were breaded and deep-fried for a very tasty lunch.
Mayor Tom Barrett attended the event and told Urban Milwaukee it was great to see the pond with all of the people enjoying fishing. He grew up about four blocks from the park.
Although he never fished within the watering hole, Barrett said he loved to see it used this way.
“Seeing kids grabbing a fishing pole for the first time is one of the most exciting things possible,” Barrett said. “They love it. You can just see that they absolutely love this.”
“When people have an appreciation for conservation, it means that they’ve got something in their lives that has intrinsic value to them,” he said.
Lt. Gov. Mandela Barnes also attended the event. He told Urban Milwaukee conservation is important to the city to ensure clean and safe drinking water. He also said he supported giving people the opportunity to catch their own food.
Barnes said he likes the reflective nature of fishing — how you can take your mind off of things and have a good time while making friends along the way. He also noted most people may not realize such resources as ponds are in their own backyards.
“These are activities you don’t think about every day when you think about the city of Milwaukee, especially intercity,” Barnes said. “We’re right in the heart. To be able to have this resource here means so much to everybody, and a lot of people put so much hard work into it.”
DNR Secretary-designee Preston Cole said Wisconsin is second only to Florida in the number of out-of-state fishing licenses offered — 330,000 to be exact. The popularity of fishing in Wisconsin is due, in part, to the 15,000 lakes and 84,000 miles of rivers and tributaries.
Cole said the biologists at DNR fisheries are looking for viruses and other harmful factors impacting waterways.
“The industry here is robust because we pay attention to the resource,” he said.
DNR Fisheries Biologist Laura Schmidt said the agency teaches kids about how the fish interact with the rest of the ecosystem as they’re learning to fish.
Learning about how the fish live in the waters, as well as abiding to fishing regulations, helps them learn how to protect the resource, Schmidt pointed out.
“The more connected you are with the resource, the more you care about it and the more involved people are going to be,” Schmidt said.
Cole said teaching kids how to fish not only provides them with a skill they can do throughout their entire lives; it also teaches them about responsibility.
“In order for us to catch fish, you have to take care of the waters,” Cole said. “Teaching a kid to fish, and making sure that they have a fishing license, means that their hands aren’t idle. Idle hands and idle minds tend to get kids in trouble. But here, this is just another way to activate them and do something wonderful for the outdoors.”
Schmidt said the pond was stocked with Rainbow Trout from the DNR back in April. Last week, the agency worked with Dave Miller at the Hunger Task Force‘s fish hatchery to stock the pond with yellow perch and hybrid bluegills.
Rainbow trout is the standard fish the DNR stocks for all the urban ponds in Milwaukee. Yellow perch and hybrid bluegill also were chosen because they do well in the waters and are easy to catch and eat.
Cole said applicants can get a fishing license within minutes through the DNR’s website. It also provides other informative tidbits, such as fishing season dates and places to fish.
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