MORRIS – Getting kids hooked on fishing and the outdoors is the goal of Steve Rogers, program instructor for the YMCA fishing camp in Morris.
“If we don’t get the youth involved, the sport won’t continue,” Rogers said Wednesday morning from the banks of a private lake in Morris.
The fishing camp has turned out to be one of the more popular camps this summer, according to program director Ken Iverson, who said 60 children signed up to partake in the week’s activities.
“It’s our most successful camp, and it gives the kids the rare opportunity to fish a variety of places that are on private property,” Iverson said. “It’s not just about fishing though, it’s giving them a lifetime skill.”
Eight-year-old Emma Johnson of Morris said she always has enjoyed fishing with her dad, but she liked the chance to get out and fish with other kids.
Her favorite thing about fishing is getting to see the fish, which she then names, before releasing them back into the lake.
“I name them when I put them back,” she said. “The big one I caught, I named Goliath because it was big.”
Her mother, Debra, said when they first received the list of summer camps being offered, she went down the list with Emma and fishing was the one she was interested in.
“When we signed up, I had no idea that different homeowners offered their lakes,” she said. “The experience is important for them.”
Iverson said this year has shown a large influx of girls over last year’s camp, and he is encouraged that word is getting out and the girls in the community know the sport is also for them.
Seven-year-old Brody Brandt of Morris said he wanted to come because he really likes fishing, and his favorite fish to catch is the blue gill.
Rogers, who writes a weekly Outdoors column for the Morris Daily Herald, said the kids are mainly catching panfish but they have caught bass and catfish, as well, using a variety of bait from lures to live worms.
On Wednesday the kids were fishing on the private lake owned by Dr. Ari de la Hera and his wife Stephanie.
“We are fortunate to have property that has a lake on it, I have two young boys who love to fish and a dad who took me fishing when I was a little girl,” Stephanie said. “This gives the local kids an opportunity to fish a local lake.”
Rogers said he asked around to local associations and private lake owners, and some agreed to open their lakes for the camp.
“Without those folks this camp wouldn’t happen,” he said. “Most of the water in the county is privately owned.”
This year’s fishing camp allowed the kids to fish with a “celebrity.”
Iverson said local officials such as Morris Mayor Richard Kopczick and Morris Community High School District 101 Superintendent Pat Halloran came on days to fish for a while with the kids.