Kokomo is home to one of the most unique youth programs you’ll find anywhere in the nation.

It’s hard to believe more than three decades have passed since a special group of children and volunteers came together for the inaugural Kokomo Kids Fishing Clinic. It happens because of a unique partnership involving government entities, national corporations, area businesses and a huge number of compassionate volunteers.

This summer will be no exception as preparations are being finalized for the 36th annual Jim “Moose” Carden Kids Fishing Clinic, named after the man who initiated the program in 1984. The annual event provides 130 children the opportunity to learn nearly every aspect of fishing. A large task indeed, yet a small army of instructors and volunteers make it happen. Now the community continues to carry on the legacy.

Sponsors include Ivy Tech Community College, Goodfellows, Kokomo Tribune, City of Kokomo, WWKI, Adams Auto Group, Indiana American Water, Coca-Cola Bottling, First Farmers Bank, Brad Stout, Rek-to-Tek, and Zebco. In honor of the 36th year, top sponsor UAW Local 685 will make it extra special.

Registrations begin Monday starting at 8 a.m. at the Kokomo Conference and Event Center, 1500 North Reed Rd. Kids do not need to be present. Cost is $25 per student, payable by cash or check.

Students must be between the ages of 6 to 15. Since we believe the “F” in fishing stands for “family” parents and other family members are encouraged to attend with their students.

Classes are taught by our area’s most prominent and successful anglers and will take place July 15, 16, 18, 23 and 25 from 6:30-9 p.m. at Kokomo High School. Once classes are completed children will then “graduate” by competing in their very own three-hour long fishing derby. All students will have the opportunity to fish from bass boats operated by qualified adult boat captains. The graduation will be held July 27 from 7 a.m. to noon at the Kokomo Reservoir.

During the opening session every child receives a quality Zebco classic rod and reel and tackle box, compliments of Micah and Bryar Schroeter. They will learn about fish identification and outdoor safety.

The following evening’s students will receive expert casting instruction while picking up a lifetime of fishing techniques from our areas best anglers. After casting practice all participants convene to the spacious auditorium where they have the opportunity to view presentations from state and nationally known guest speakers.

Students then attend two informative classes where almost every topic associated with fishing is covered. Instruction will detail proper use and techniques of all artificial lures, live bait, outdoor ethics and types of fishing equipment. Students even have the chance to learn about ice fishing and how to clean real fish. Following class instruction, participants then re-convene to the auditorium where over 100 door prizes are given away. This has been appropriately titled “Happy Half Hour.”

It doesn’t take long to realize those who love the outdoors are 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 for our youth, as did the man whose name the clinic honors.

More than 180 volunteers help participants develop an increased sense of self-reliance with our aquatic resources. This special fraternity of men and women anglers provides a warm and helpful atmosphere which makes students feel comfortable. These instructors do a superb job in passing on knowledge and skills which can be cultivated for a lifetime of success and enjoyment.

Enough cannot be said about sponsors and volunteers who make the program possible. Because of their sincere dedication the 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 help bridge the gap 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!

BASS TOURNEY

Dana and Shawn Burton swept Monday evening’s Kokomo Reservoir open team bass tourney, sponsored by Cardwell Built Construction and Roby’s Bullseye Outdoors. The winners carried two fish to the scales weighing 5.03 pounds. They also took home the tourney’s honor for big fish with a bass tipping the scales at 3.68 pounds. Second place went to Chance Taskey and Eric Kinney with two fish weighing 4.25 pounds. Dennis McKee and Mat Temme snagged third place with two bass totaling 3.47 pounds.

John Martino is the Tribune's outdoors columnist and may be reached at jmartinooutdoors@att.net.

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