Growing Local Support
by Scott Mackenthun, Fisheries Specialist
Winter for Minnesota DNR’s Section of Fisheries finds many employees tight to microfiche readers counting fish scale annuli, pressed to computers typing reports, plans, and narratives, and sitting at tables in committee meetings. A break in the monotony is always a welcome addition. When Region director Mark Matuska and Region Fisheries Manager Jack Lauer recently emphasized youth participation in fishing and hunting at local levels, it seemed to be an opportunity to do something different through the winter blahs.
This past February, Waterville area fisheries office had its first Youth Ice Fishing Workshop. Our first class brought together a dozen 3rd through 6th graders to our office from the Waterville-Elysian-Morristown school district. The four-week class held on Thursdays finished with a Saturday afternoon of fishing on Tetonka Lake.
Each week highlighted new concepts to prepare the youth for their culminating fishing activity and for the future decisions they will need to make as they become voting citizens and environmental stewards. Some of the Fishing: Get in the Habitat! lessons we used were:
- Lesson 2:8 - Fish In Winter and Lesson 1:6 - From Frozen to Fascinating to learn about aquatic organisms’ adaptations to cold weather and what fish do in the winter,
- Lesson 3:5 - The Lake Game to illustrate individual stewardship decisions,
- Lesson 4:2 - Fish Surveys to introduce how the DNR conducts fish surveys,
- Lesson 5:7 - Making Ice Fishing Jiggle Sticks and Lesson 6:2 - Ice Fishing and Winter Safety to get the kids out onto the ice.
The Waterville office also assisted with 3 other kid’s ice fishing events on weekends.
Overall, I think the kids had a lot of fun. Fishing was slow during our Saturday event, but the hot chocolate made it a bit more bearable. We had a very strong response from local donors; all the kids went home with a bag holding a dozen different jigs and some bobbers. For the 2009-2010 ice fishing season, our office has been in contact with nearby Waseca community education about offering a class for similarly aged kids in that district. We are hoping to make it an annual event.
Kids can develop a fascination with physical and biological sciences during the winter months. They learn about the role temperature plays in the water cycle, in matter states, and in biological seasons and rhythms. I fondly recall my time spent with my grandfather looking down a spear hole as bluegills, perch, and bass cruised through our hole while we waited for the dark shadow of a Playing Lesson 1:2 Food decoying pike. A collection of water Chain Tagboatmen would shoot around the edges of the water and ice boundary. An occasional crayfish would scuttle across the bottom amongst the dormant aquatic vegetation. For me today, watching a flasher screen or a slim bobber dance is just as exciting as watching the old red and white spear decoy, but it all started with getting this kid out on the ice.
Winter gets long for many fisheries employees, so why not contact your local fisheries staff to help with an ice fishing class?