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Hooked on fishing, not on drugs

By Lindsay Kelley
Progress writer

Going fishing is how two members of Prattville's Department of Leisure Services plans to help keep local children off drugs. The poem reads, "But if no fish I catch at all, successful I'll still be. For I've been fishing, had a ball, and for a day been free."

Betty Hall, program director, and Chad Dopson, athletic director, took a course Thursday called "Hooked on Fishing, Not on Drugs."

The program, sponsored by State of Alabama Department of Conservation and Natural Resources, is designed to train adults with life skills they can teach to young children.

Douglas Darr, aquatic education coordinator, taught the seminar.

According to Darr, lots of children do not get out and enjoy the natural world.

"Many kids tend to stay inside," he said. "They have what you call, 'nature deficit disorder.'"

Darr said that nature could provide an outlet to negative behavior. And the fishing program is a prime example of an outdoor activity that could give children something constructive to do.

When implemented the program works on several levels teaching children safety skills, conservation ethics and social skills.

During the training, Dopson and Hall learned all about fishing safety, types of tackle, casting, retrieving, how to prepare the catch and different species of fish.

In addition, they learned character development skills and educational activities.

One activity included making a fishing rod out of an empty soft drink can, fishing wire and a hook. Their homemade fishing rods proved successful. Dopson caught a fish within minutes of their lesson at Pratt Park's pond.

Part of the training also involved teaching children about the purpose of fishing. Darr said that children tend to be goal oriented, feeling that the purpose of fishing is to catch something.

To keep young fishers from feeling frustrated or disappointed, Darr taught Hall and Dopson a poem to recite before they take children out fishing.

The two adults were enthusiastic about the program.

"We are always looking for something different, something to keep people involved," said Dopson.

"Kids would really enjoy making can fishing rods," Hall said. "It wouldn't be hard to do. You can find empty cans on the side of the road."

Hall and Dopson said they would like to incorporate their new skills into the upcoming spring break camp that the Department of Leisure Services will sponsor March 20-24.

To learn about the mentoring program, "Hooked on Fishing, Not on Drugs," contact Douglas Darr at 242-3884, or visit www.outdooralabama.com.

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