Standing in the corner of a wooden deck over Discovery Pond, Mark Green and his grandson, Dylan Green, patiently waited for a pull on their fishing pole.
Eleven-year-old Dylan estimated he cast his line a dozen times until he wound up with a golden shiner on his hook.
He was excited because it was his first time catching a fish. One time, while fishing with his father, he almost reeled in a sunfish, but it was knocked off of his line.
“He was kind of pulling it in a little bit, and I said, ‘Let’s just let it sit there. We’re not doing anything,’” said Mark Green of Seymour. “Then all of a sudden, the bobber starts doing its thing, and I said, ‘Pull a little bit.’ He pulled, and there it was.”
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Dylan said it’s not often he gets a chance to fish, so he took advantage of Saturday’s free family fishing workshop at Muscatatuck National Wildlife Refuge east of Seymour.
Hosted by the refuge’s nonprofit friends group, Muscatatuck Wildlife Society, the event was conducted on one of four free fishing days, where Hoosiers aren’t required to have a fishing license. The others are May 21 and June 4 and 5.
If you missed Saturday’s workshop, the refuge will offer children and their families another chance to fish for free with the annual Take a Kid Fishing event June 4.
Mark Green said it’s great to see the refuge conduct events to promote fishing.
“I had a fishing license a couple of years ago, but we never did go, and I didn’t get one last year,” he said. “So now, it’s got me hooked to get one this year, and we know we’ve got a good spot. We live in town, so we can just come right back here and hang out.”
Mark Green said he and his grandson not only talked about different strategies while fishing, but he was able to share stories about the family’s fishing tradition too.
“This is beautiful weather,” he said of the sunny, 80-degree day. “We couldn’t have picked a better day. I’m just glad it was provided and glad I had the day off to bring (Dylan) out.”
Muscatatuck park ranger Donna Stanley said the family fishing workshop is a project of the Indiana Department of Natural Resources Division of Fish and Wildlife’s Go FishIN program, which provided free poles and bait for families to use Saturday.
The refuge’s workshop, which drew about 60 people, started in the auditorium of the visitor center, where Stanley talked about angler ethics and fishing safety and had kids practice tying knots.
Everyone then went outside to practice casting with poles and colorful plastic fish before walking over to Discovery Pond to try and catch real fish. The day ended with a free hot dog lunch.
Among the group were local Girl Scouts fishing with their fathers.
Jennifer Phillips, service unit manager and program coordinator for Jackson County Girl Scouts and leader of Troop 1242 in Seymour, said it was the second year for Girl Scouts to participate in the workshop.
Last year, they fished at Richart Lake at the refuge, so Discovery Pond was new for the group.
“I know life can get stressful and busy, and just sitting out here and relaxing and enjoying the view and listening to the little girls scream when the dad makes them touch the worm or the fish, it’s funny to watch,” she said, smiling.
While one of the Girl Scouts’ main projects is cookie sales, Phillips said she also likes conducting events to emphasize the importance of families spending time together.
“Family has always been very important to me and my husband, and I have always tried to raise our kids to be family-oriented,” she said. “We just want our kids to understand family is important. I try to do that with the Girl Scouts, too. It’s just families getting together and enjoying each other’s company and making really good memories with each other.”
Kalika Batman, 12, of Brownstown, a member of Troop 6219 in Seymour, fished alongside her father, Walt Batman.
By participating in the event, Kalika was able to earn a Girl Scout badge. But she said the best part about it was spending quality time with her dad.
Walt Batman said they don’t get to fish together very often.
“I just wanted to come out and spend time with her and get a little fishing in and just relax,” he said.
On occasion, Walt Batman said he is able to fish at a co-worker’s private pond, and they like doing catch-and-release, which involves catching a fish and then putting it back in the water.
“I like just catching them, just the thrill of it, if we ever catch any,” he said, laughing.
He said he and Kalika hoped to catch a few fish Saturday.
“It’s good for the kids to come out and get to practice, and they get to learn about the wildlife and be aware of what’s here and available to them and be respectful to the wildlife,” he said. “I think it’s just an all-around good thing for them, a learning experience.”
Blanca Gabriel, 8, of Seymour is a member of Troop 1242. She attended the workshop with her mother, Yvonne Hernandez, along with Yana Ball, 10, and her father, Daniel Clemente.
Blanca said she has been fishing since she was 4, but she has yet to catch a fish. She said it’s fun to try, and she is glad she gets that opportunity in Girl Scouts.
“I like that we get to sell cookies and go on field trips,” she said.
Hernandez said the family had a good time spending part of the day fishing.
“It’s good for them,” she said. “I’m glad they get to enjoy the experience.”
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The Indiana Department of Natural Resources Division of Fish and Wildlife has set aside four days this year where Hoosiers can fish for free without a license.
The first was this past Saturday. The others are May 21 and June 4 and 5.
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Muscatatuck National Wildlife Refuge is one of three refuges in Indiana and is the oldest in the state. It will celebrate 50 years this fall.
Here are some upcoming events at the refuge:
Saturday: Earth Day volunteer work day
April 30: Celebrate Pollinators
May 13 and 14: Wings Over Muscatatuck Migratory Bird Festival
May 14: May Day Bird Count
June 4: Take a Kid Fishing event
June 11: Nature Play Day
July 11: Butterfly Count
July 11 through 15: Junior Master Naturalist class
Sept. 17: 50th anniversary celebration
Sept. 24: National Public Lands Day cleanup
Oct. 8: Log Cabin Day Festival
Oct. 9: Big Sit Bird Count
Oct. 9 through 15: National Wildlife Refuge Week
Nov. 19 and 20: Bookstore open house
For information, visit the refuge at 12985 E. U.S. 50, Seymour; call 812-522-4352; or visit fws.gov/refuge/muscatatuck or facebook.com/MuscatatuckNWR.