How One Dad Makes a Difference
by Michelle Kelly, Aquatic Education Specialist
Katie, soon to be entering 8th grade, is from Mahtomedi and has been fishing since she was two years old. One day Katie came home from a frustrating day in her 5th grade classroom and told her father, “Dad, girls don’t fish. The boys are the only ones that talk about fishing and girls don’t ever go.”
Jeff Ledermann, Katie’s dad, decided right then he was going to do something about that stereotype. Jeff has two daughters, Katie and Heidi. He is employed by the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency and is an avid sportsman. Jeff knew it wasn’t true that “girls don’t fish.” He has taken his daughters fishing with him often, and many of his daughters’ friends’ fathers have told him they frequently take their girls fishing, too.
Clearly, there was a perception problem about girls and fishing at his daughter’s school.
Jeff came up with the idea of a fishing club - for girls. His hope was that at least in Mahtomedi, anyway, his daughters and their friends would know it was not only okay for girls to fish, it could be a whole lot of fun, too!
That was three years ago. The Fishing Daughters Club has been going strong ever since.
Heidi (on the right), and her classmate Shea Ryan will both be 6th graders at Mahtomedi Middle School this fall. After participating in the Mahtomedi area Fishing Daughter’s Club, Heidi had this to say: “I like spending time with my friends. It’s great to see the smiles on my friends’ faces when they catch a fish.” Shea shares: “Fishing is very fun. The lakes we go to are great. I caught my first fish ever - a big bluegill! I can’t wait to go again this summer!”
Jeff shared with me how he started the Daughters Fishing Club. One of the first things he did was to put together a specific set of scheduled evening fishing trips for the summer (this summer, five outings were scheduled). “That,” according to Jeff, “has made it very easy for me to get the word out and in the busy worlds of these girls and their families -we have to wait for the summer soccer schedule before I set the dates. Having a set date on the calendar makes sure it will happen.”
Interest in participating in the club has largely been generated through word of mouth by Katie’s and her sister’s friends’ families. Jeff also worked through the Mahtomedi Community Education office to help get the word out to girls in the school district by providing flyers to all the teachers to send home with the kids.
Jeff emphasizes that it is important to keep things very simple. He wrote up some basic information and a set of “operating rules” for the club. This plan has delivered successful results and Jeff wants to let other parents know how easy and impactful it can be to set something up like this.
The following guidelines have been key to the success of the club:
- Focus on the girls – Jeff doesn’t fish to make sure the girls are having fun and are successful.
- Bring food - take a break mid-way through the evening to eat snacks as a group at the landing or a park.
- Be intentional about lake choices - pick lakes that have lots of fish, especially panfish, to catch and lakes that have facilities(plenty of parking, picnic area and bathrooms are all ideal).
- Get prizes - the big fish of the night gets a nice trophy (engraved). Also, have lots of other prizes (lures, etc.) for the “runner-ups.” Jeff charges a small fee ($10/family) to cover the cost of prizes and refreshments.
- Take pictures - the great photos have created permanent memories for everyone involved. And then share them with all the participants. Jeff makes a CD of the photos and gives them to the families in the fall.
Forming a fishing club in your area is a great way to get connected in the community and get kids outdoors in the habitat. Just set it up, let everyone know about it (even boys), and go fishing!
This year, 2008, is the third summer for the Mahtomedi Daughters Fishing Club. Jeff knew he had accomplished his initial goal when Katie said this spring that all the girls were talking about Fishing Daughters Club at school and were eager to know the schedule so they could let their parents know. Imagine that – middle school girls talking fishing at lunch!!! Shea even wrote about her fishing trip last year for one of her main English assignments this past school year!