By John Martino
Kokomo has been home to one of the most unique outdoor-oriented youth programs offered anywhere in the United States. This special event is made possible only through partnerships involving government entities, national corporations, area businesses and hundreds of caring volunteers.
If you hold a rock, you are touching the past. If you hold a flower, you are touching the present. If you hold a child, you are touching the future and that’s exactly what the program is about. To date, that has happened more than 3,800 times.
This summer will be no exception as 130 kids and their parents will be afforded the opportunity to take part in the 29th annual Jim “Moose” Carden Kokomo Kids Fishing Clinic. The popular program is sponsored by the City of Kokomo Parks and Recreation Department, Kokomo Tribune, Booster Club of Kokomo, Coca-Cola Bottling, Zebco and First Farmers Bank and Trust.
Registrations begin tomorrow morning at 8 a.m. for the first 130 kids between the ages of 6 to 15. The accompanying registration form must be completed and signed by legal parent or guardian, then delivered to the Parks office, located at 1402 W. Defenbaugh in Highland Park. The fee has been set at $20 per student. Additional registration forms will be available for those wishing to enroll more than one child.
If you are unsuccessful in registering a child, as the clinic normally fills to capacity during the first day of registrations, you can still take part as all class sessions are open to the public.
Clinic volunteers and instructors believe the “F” in fishing stands for “Family,” therefore family members are encouraged to attend these informative classes with their children. Through the years, adults have enjoyed the program as much as the students.
This year’s classes will be held from 6:30 to 9 p.m. on July 16, 17, 19, 24 and 26. All class sessions and presentations will take place at Kokomo High School located at 2501 S. Berkley Rd. Students will receive expert instruction while at the same time learning a lifetime of fishing techniques from our area’s finest anglers.
Every child registered will receive a new Zebco Classic rod and reel, assorted fishing equipment and safety related items.
Each evening begins with casting practice where students learn proper form in handling the tools of the trade while also honing their accuracy skills.
Immediately following this practice session, everyone convenes to the spacious auditorium where a “general session” is held. It is during this time, participants and guests get the opportunity to view presentations from state and nationally recognized guest speakers. This year nationally recognized TV show host Kim Stricker of “Hook and Look” will make his second visit providing those in attendance with a captivating program.
Members of the Indiana Department of Natural Resources will be on hand to detail the highlights of our state’s fishing opportunities as well as conduct a class on fish identification.
Show stopper Scotty Lucas, our nation’s premier trick caster, will impress the crowd with his amazing casting abilities. Lucas, who resides in Tennessee, is committed to our program and has been a featured speaker since the inception of Kokomo’s Kids Clinic.
Following these general sessions, students are divided into four groups based on age where they attend two educational sessions. These classes are taught by our state’s top anglers. Nearly every topic associated with the great sport of fishing will be discussed.
For example, students will have an opportunity to learn about all types of live bait and artificial lures. Boaters safety, outdoor ethics and fundamentals of ice fishing are also covered. One class even reveals the secrets to successful fish cleaning.
Following class instruction, participants return to the auditorium for what has been appropriately titled “Happy Half-Hour.” It is during this time hundreds of door prizes are given away to those in attendance.
Culminating the five evening sessions is the highly acclaimed Graduation Tournament, which takes place July 28 from 7 a.m. to noon at our Kokomo Reservoir.
It is here the young graduates test their newly acquired skills while competing from fully equipped bass boats with a qualified adult boat captain sitting at the helm. An awards ceremony and community sponsored picnic follows the weigh-in. Do these kids catch fish you may wonder? At last year’s tourney, hundreds of assorted fish were carried to the scales before being released!
For those who have never witnessed this graduation event, it is breathtaking to watch as 65 captains ease their boats from shore with the sole purpose of providing students with a positive, lifelong memory.
They say a person stands tallest when they stoop to help children. It doesn’t take long to realize that those who love the outdoors are also some of our community’s most generous and caring people. This becomes evident as everyone involved with the clinic shares the commitment to provide a positive outdoor experience to our youth, as did the man whose name the clinic honors.
More than 150 volunteers, instructors and boat captains help participants develop an increased sense of self reliance. This special fraternity of men and women anglers provides a helpful atmosphere which allows students to feel comfortable.
Instructors do a masterful job in passing on knowledge and skills that can be cultivated through a lifetime. Its been said many times the clinic teaches kids about life in general and fishing in particular.
Enough cannot be said about the army of volunteers who make the program possible. Because of their sincere dedication to excellence, Kokomo’s Kids Fishing Clinic was recognized by the National Freshwater Fishing Hall of Fame, as one of the top outdoor oriented youth fishing programs in the United States.
Regardless of age, the sport of fishing is one of the few activities that can be enjoyed for a lifetime. It can also provide common ground between adults and children — even at times we feel there is none.
Teaching a child to fish usually provides our environment with a much needed friend in the future. Everyone associated with the Kids Fishing Clinic considers it an investment into our nation’s number one natural resource — kids!
• John Martino is the Tribune’s outdoors columnist. He may be reached by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.