Youth learn about fishing during 4-H workshop at forestry


A boy couldn’t hold back his excitement when he caught his very first fish.

His mother was equally excited and made sure to capture the moment on camera.

Shannon Winks was happy to be there to witness it all.

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“It’s pretty neat to be a part of that,” she said with a big smile. “I enjoy working with the kids that have never fished before. That was fun.”

In her 21 years of working with the Indiana Department of Natural Resources Division of Fish and Wildlife and also serving as a 4-H volunteer, Winks has experienced that many times.

It never gets old, she said.

“It still feels pretty special,” the Tampico native said. “As adults sometimes, we lose that excitement. (Kids) still have it.”

Winks’ primary job is serving as a private lands biologist for the Driftwood State Fish Hatchery in Vallonia, where she works with private land owners to establish and build wildlife habitat on their property.

She also has opportunities to educate people about hunting and fishing.

The most recent time came Monday night when she led a fishing workshop for Jackson County 4-H members in kindergarten through sixth grade at the Jackson-Washington State Forest in Brownstown.

Five boys and two girls participated in the hourlong event.

Winks first touched on fishing safety, including learning how to cast and watch the end of the fishing rod so the hook doesn’t hit other people.

Then it was time to apply what they learned and try to catch some fish.

Between Winks, three other volunteers and parents, kids had plenty of help.

“Some of them have never fished before, so you actually have to show them how the reel works,” Winks said. “Most often, they understand the concept of the pole, but they don’t understand the reel. These are spin casting reels, so they are fairly simple to use. They are the easiest to learn on.”

Some kids were able to catch a fish and place it on the dock before putting it back in the water. Other times, the fish wiggled its way off of the hook.

Either way, they had fun and learned a lot.

Wyatt Moore, 6, of Seymour said he has fished for three years, and he learned something new at the workshop.

“Fish as close as you can to the weeds because the little fish hide, and you might catch a big one,” he said. “I got three swimming around my hook, but they didn’t bite.”

Ada Lanier, 9, of Brownstown had a similar experience. Apparently, the fish caught on to what was going on.

Still, she had fun spending time with her dad, Corey Lanier.

“I just like listening to the birds and stuff,” Ada said of being outside fishing.

Wyatt’s mother, Ashley Moore, said she learned about the workshop in the 4-H newsletter, so she and her husband, Brandon Moore, signed their son up.

“He has been with Cloverleaf 4-H Club in Brownstown, and we just like to figure out different things he can get involved in,” Brandon said.

“We try to get him in anywhere, everywhere we can, especially stuff like this that he is interested in and enjoys,” Ashley said.

Brandon said Wyatt has been doing a little more fishing this year, so the workshop was another good opportunity.

“Stuff like this where somebody else can kind of guide him a little bit, it’s not mom and dad telling him,” Brandon said. “It gets him involved, it’s education and he meets some other kids.”

Corey Lanier said he also found out about the workshop through his child’s involvement in 4-H.

“She hasn’t fished a whole lot,” he said of Ada. “She used to at her grandparents’ when they used to have a pond at their house. That’s about it.”

Since she loves doing anything outdoors, Corey said Ada was excited about the workshop.

“Now that we live in such a technological society, it’s really nice to kind of get away and not stare at our phones and stuff for a minute and actually get back to the roots, what we all used to do before TV and cellphones and stuff like that,” he said.

Ada, who also is a member of the Brave Wave summer swimming team in Brownstown, said she likes how fishing is something she can do with her family for the rest of her life.

“That’s pretty cool,” she said, smiling.

Winks said it’s great to see kids take an interest in fishing at a young age. Indiana residents don’t need a fishing license until they are 18, but if they start now and stay with fishing, it could become a lifelong hobby, she said.

“To me, it means a lot because I’m a Division of Fish and Wildlife employee,” she said. “The Division of Fish and Wildlife runs off of hunting and fishing license sales, so every license that is purchased by these kids down the road as an adult … they are funding fish and wildlife conservation, so that’s very important.”

If kids continue with fishing, it will be passed from generation to generation, Winks said.

“Not everybody can play basketball or football, but just about anybody can fish,” she said. “This is a great family activity to come out and enjoy the beauty of the outdoors and spend time with your family, and all ages can fish.”

At the end of the workshop, kids played a backyard bass game where they used a fishing pole to catch plastic fish. Then they took home a goody bag with an activity book, a poster, a booklet about fishing in Indiana, a packet of artificial bait, a sticker, a pencil, a pencil sharpener and a pocket guide to different types of fish.

It’s all to keep kids involved in fishing.

“We have different workshops and activities, and they also do fishing like this at the state fair,” Winks said. “The Department of Natural Resources runs a Go FishIN program, and they have a concrete pond they will fill up with water, and they bring the kids through that want to fish, and they have adults that can teach them, too. There are more opportunities down the road to continue on fishing.”