More than 250 kids and 200 adults gathered in Brooklyn’s Prospect Park Tuesday evening for, in many cases, their first encounter with the sport of fishing. The event, called Brooklyn Fishing Day, was a joint effort by the Boy Scouts of America, FLW and Zebco through the Scouts’ Hooked on Scouting campaign.
Brooklyn and the surrounding metro area aren’t rife with fishing opportunities, but derbies like this one and others that the Scouts host throughout the year give urban youths and their families opportunities to learn about fishing and other outdoor and leadership programs available through the Scouts. The interest is obviously strong, judging by the size of the turnout.
Zebco provided a free rod and reel for every child. They were rigged with hook, split shot and bobber by FLW staff members, volunteers and employees of the Scouts’ Scoutreach program, which works in urban and rural communities where kids might otherwise not have an opportunity to be exposed to Scouting.
FLW Tour pros Tom Redington and Grae Buck headed up a group of volunteer fishing experts who helped bait hooks, land fish and untangle lines. FLW also hauled in its Ranger Boats simulator and FLW Tour weigh-in stage, where FLW’s youth director, Scott Ellison, emceed a weigh-in for kids to weigh their biggest individual fish.
Amaya Edmond (above) of Brooklyn won the derby and a trophy with a 10-ounce crappie that narrowly edged out DJ Smart’s 9-ounce catfish. Other species caught included largemouth bass, yellow perch and bluegill.
This was Amaya’s first time fishing, and she anticipates doing much more of it in the future.
“Especially since I got a free rod,” she says. “It was cool. The aiming [casting] was the hard part.”
Amaya’s mom, Jahmela Smith, says she was surprised by how much patience is required to catch fish, but she’s excited to learn and experience more, too.
“Most of them had maybe been fishing once, if ever,” says Redington. “It was all about the basics of how to put the worm on, how to cast it – everything. It’s pretty neat to see somebody who’s never fished before, never even picked up a fishing rod, have that experience that all of a sudden they catch that fish and totally light up.”
Markus Olvet, Brooklyn field director for the Scouts, led event organization efforts on a local level. He says it’s been a long time since the Scouts held a fishing event in Brooklyn. There are other fishing events in New York City, but many require a long commute from Brooklyn. For this particular event, membership in the Scouts wasn’t mandatory. In fact, most of the boys and girls who participated were not already Scouts. Olvet’s hoping today’s derby might spark an interest in learning more about the organization, but that wasn’t his primary objective.
“My overall goal was to give kids in Brooklyn a great experience. That’s the No. 1 thing, and that’s what Scouting is about,” Olvet says. “We also want to let them know that Scouting exists in the borough because a lot of people say, ‘Oh, you still have Scouting here in New York City?’ Because meetings are held in church basements or in the school gym, there’s not quite as much visibility. So this is a great opportunity to do that while providing a fantastic program for potential Scouts and current Scouts in the program.
“I feel great about the event. There were so many kids who caught their first panfish ever. That’s what Scouting is about. We give an opportunity in New York City for kids to do things they’ve never had an opportunity to do before. You don’t do this in school. After-school programs don’t really have fishing or any outdoor activities, so having an opportunity to do this was really fantastic for us. I heard the kids laughing and smiling, and that’s all that matters.”
Christopher Coscia, deputy scout executive of the Greater New York Councils, helps oversee a branch of the Boy Scouts that serves about 45,000 young people in and around New York City. He was on hand for Tuesday’s derby as well and says that fishing is usually a big draw for area youth, so providing this opportunity – he hopes – will attract more kids to the outdoors.
“I think if there are more opportunities for kids to fish they will,” says Coscia. “I think events like tonight show that kids are kids no matter what part of the country they are from. They all want to do these types of events. It’s just that the opportunity isn’t there all the time. It’s part of our job to bring those opportunities to them so they can find out what they truly love.”
More than anything, all the organizations and adults involved hope that Tuesday’s derby will help build the next generation of anglers, or at least instill some interest in the outdoors in kids to give them an appreciation for green spaces and the land and water we all share. And on that front, the event was a big success.
“Every kid is going home with a free Zebco fishing rod, and they’re going to bug their parents to come back fishing,” says Coscia. “We will be having a follow-up event in August to try and engage them more. All in all, this was an excellent event.”