Refuge hosts Take a Kid Fishing Day

Sunny skies and warm temperatures provided ideal conditions for the Muscatatuck National Wildlife Refuge’s annual Take a Kid Fishing Day.

All that was needed for participants was a fishing pole, bait and tackle and a little patience when they participated in the contest Saturday.

The day was part of a free fishing weekend at state and federal parks in Indiana without a license and to spawn the next generation of anglers.

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“The main idea is introduce kids to the sport of fishing and show them how fun it is,” said Donna Stanley, the park ranger at the refuge.

The Muscatatuck Wildlife Society provided free bait and tackle, the refuge loaned fishing poles and interns were on hand to help participants learn to fish if they needed it.

Participants were taught to make a cane pole for fishing and given a fish bandana to keep cool. A game of lawn fishing was available outside the visitor center to learn the skill of casting.

Of course, there was the annual contest where age groups competed for the longest fish. Participants fished at Discovery Pond, which is near the parking lots of the refuge. The pond is for those 15 and younger, Stanley said.

“It’s a small pond and high quality, and there’s good access to it,” she said. “There’s also a sidewalk that leads to it, which is good for strollers, and there’s a pier.”

Steve Fries of North Vernon brought his daughter Mikailah, 9, for the day. Already an experienced angler, Mikailah baited her own hook and quickly caught a bluegill.

She said she likes to fish because she can eat what she catches and spend time with family.

“I get to eat fish, and I get to spend time with my dad,” she said after casting her line into the water. “I’ve had a little luck and caught one. I had a bite earlier but didn’t get that one.”

Fries said he likes passing on a tradition and hobby that gets children outside.

“It’s a skill and a hobby both and are equally important,” he said. “As time goes on and as technology advances, those things can be lost, and we should pass it down. I think it’s important to get out and get away from the city, the TVs, computers and phones and enjoy nature.”

The family fishes at the refuge with friends, on Mikailah’s grandfather’s pond in Kentucky and fishing trips to Minnesota.

“We eat a lot of the fish we catch in Minnesota,” Fries said.

Mikailah confirmed.

“Yeah, it’s fish every meal,” she said with a grin.

Chase VanLinden, 7, of Juneau, Alaska, was visiting his grandparents in Seymour. His grandfather, Roger Barker, helped him as he cast from the banks of Discovery Pond.

Barker urged his grandson to use more patience while fishing after releasing a bluegill back into the pond.

Chase indicted he mastered the art of patience long ago.

“I have great patience,” he said after casting a line. “I once waited an hour for a cookie.”

The refuge offers one of the largest areas to fish in the area.

Other than Discovery Pond for youth, the refuge boasts two large lakes, Richart and Stanfield, and also Lake Linda, two Sand Hill ponds, Persimmon Ponds and Lake Sheryl.

Stanley said the refuge doesn’t know exactly how many people fish there each year, but a good portion of the 172,000 annual visitors do.

“I’d say it’s a good part of why a lot of visitors come to see us,” she said.

The lakes and ponds also are filled with fun fish to catch, she said.

Anglers can catch largemouth bass, bluegill, crappie and channel catfish.

“Those are the main sport fish, and you can have a lot of fun catching those fish,” Stanley said.

The refuge does not stock fish because the species naturally reproduce.

Stanley said Take a Kid Fishing Day is a popular event, but she wasn’t exactly sure how long the refuge has offered it.

“I know it’s been more than 20 years,” she said, grinning. “We’ve lost track, but we have done it a long time.”

Fries said he and his family will continue to attend the event and make visits to the refuge.

“We love fishing and the outdoors,” he said. “Now that she is getting older, we will probably go out more and more.”

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Winners of the Take a Kid Fishing Day contest at Muscatatuck National Wildlife Refuge

6 and under: Dayuin Phelps, 3; 9-inch bluegill*

7 to 10: Sophie Lauber, 9; 7¾-inch bluegill

11 to 17: Lariah Freese, 12; 6.7-inch bluegill

*largest of the day

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Lakes and ponds at Muscatatuck National Wildlife Refuge near Seymour

Lake Linda, Richart Lake, Lake Sheryl, Stanfield Lake, Discovery Pond (15 and younger), two Sand Hill ponds and two Persimmon Ponds

Fish to catch at the refuge

Largemouth bass, bluegill, crappie and channel catfish

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License information

Licenses can be obtained online at, at retailers, by mail at the Indiana Department of Natural Resources or by phone at 317-232-4200.

Two retailers in Jackson County offer licenses: Brownstown Hardware and Walmart Supercenter in Seymour, according to the state website.

A license is not required for Indiana residents before April 1, 1943, and residents under the age of 18. There are a number of exemptions for those with disabilities, in the military and residential owners.

For information, visit