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Teaching children to fish is worthwhile work

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This is always the busiest time of year for me, but not because the fishing is great (which it has been).

Every year I travel all over Manitoba talking to students about the great sport of fishing. It harkens back to my youth, when fishing was not even on the horizon. It wasn't until I took a job in Prince Albert, Sask., that I discovered the pleasures of spending a morning fishing from the banks of the North Saskatchewan River.

After spending 32 years in this sport as a professional, a big chunk of my work has been spent passing on some of the knowledge I have accumulated over that time to a wide variety of people, including youth. It all started back in 1992 in Swan River, when my friend Dwayne Whyte, who was a science teacher at the high school, got me to speak to his class and a number of other schools in the region.

Garry Gurke, owner of Nueltin Lake Lodge, had heard of these school visits and decided to volunteer time and money to expand the program to remote northern regions of Manitoba. He started the program by offering a trip to be auctioned at the 2002 Fish Futures banquet.

Gurke, along with his son, Shawn, had offered a trip each year, with the money raised to be used to visit northern and central Manitoba communities. Then, in 2012, Manitoba Hydro took over the sponsorship.

The program was expanded to include the purchase of rods, reels and terminal tackle to be left in the communities that were visited. Where possible, a hot lunch was provided to the students of the schools, as well as staff. In many cases this donation proved to be a catalyst that brought families and communities together in a leisure-time activity that could be enjoyed by all.

On my recent tour, I first visited Lac du Bonnet for a day of instruction and fishing with Grade 6 students at Centennial School. Sponsored by the Lac du Bonnet Wildlife Association, this was the fifth year for the program. On Sunday I left for The Pas, with a visit to Cormorant Lake and Moose Lake on Monday and Tuesday, followed by York Landing and Nelson House to finish the week.

This northern tour has been sponsored by Manitoba Hydro the last three years, but as with most things, cutbacks have affected funding in a number of programs. Hopefully this very worthwhile work will continue.

Robert Rideout is the physical education instructor at the school in Moose Lake and is passionate about the outdoors. He helped co-ordinate my trip to the school. He says the fishing and hunting course he teaches is designed to get the students onto the lakes and into the wilderness. With new rods and reels he received for his outdoor program, he was planning a fishing outing for the next day with his students.

Here is what Rideout had to say about the program, "Our goal when setting up the course was to make it as hands-on as we could. We often look into the community for elders, fishermen and hunters who have the skills and knowledge needed to survive and prosper in the out-of-doors. The students have deep respect for these individuals because they are from their own community and their skills are well-known.

"There are many objectives for the course. The course teaches hunting and fishing techniques, different types of gear, survival skills, fire-making and orienteering -- including map and compass and using GPS.

"We also teach the students how to tie knots, snare rabbits and trap small animals as well as species identification and species management. We know how important safety is, so we offer a day of first-aid and hunter-safety training that provides the students with certification in these areas."

Angler's notes: Catfishing on the Red River continues to be spectacular, from shore and from a boat. That was confirmed by the Miles Mac Angling Club. Organized by teacher Tim Au, 39 students recently caught and released some 243 fish between 9 a.m. and 2:30 p.m. They finished the day with a riverbank cleanup from 2:30 to 3 p.m. The group also raised $1,100 to be donated to four different charities.

Walleye fishing in many regions of the province has also been excellent as the water warms up. I had a chance also on my trip to fish lake trout for a couple of afternoons with my friend, Rick Hubbs. While we didn't catch any large trout, the action was steady using a jig and a big dead minnow in 14 metres of water on mud flats.

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition June 14, 2014 C12

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