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HOOKING FAMILIES WITH REEL FUN

20110521_FishingsFuture_Olga_Mendez_SEAN_4186McALLEN — Outdoor activities, where families can relish in nature, are slowly fizzling out with most people staying indoors and choosing electronic devices over the natural world.

To combat their departure from that disposition, Shane Wilson, president and creator of Fishing’s Future is working to re-connect children to nature with their parents through fishing. The program uses fishing camps to focus on strengthening bonds between families so children have a positive guided life and a chance at a successful future.

“Parents and their kids are either too busy or distracted with TV, video games or cell phones. We are losing the human touch and the connections,” said Wilson. “I started Fishing’s Future to bring back the parents and put them in their children’s lives in an outside environment.”

Wilson started the program in 2004, after spending the last 20 years as an educator with the alternative education program in Port Isabel. Being involved with at-risk youth, he realized there was a need for a stronger family unit.

“They are good kids, but just make bad decisions. The reason they make those bad choices sometimes is because they don’t have a mom, dad or significant adult actively engaging in their lives,” said Wilson. “There are a few parents that are very concerned, don’t get me wrong, but even as much as parents love their kids, they don’t spend enough time.”

With increasing rates of diabetes and obesity among young children, Wilson thought fishing would be a perfect catalyst to outdoor exercise.

“Kids are locked up inside with electronics or they don’t want to go outside because it’s too hot,” said Wilson. “If I can get the kids outside with their parents and get the parents to engage in the activity with their children actively, both get moving outdoors.”

Wilson has 45 years of experience in the fishing industry. He holds an International Game Fish Association Fly Fishing World Record, two Guinness World Records and has patent products in the industry. He is also listed in the Fresh Water Fishing Hall of Fame.

His program became non-profit and tax exempt in 2007 and last year became a national non-profit organization. Wilson’s passion and vast knowledge has helped Fishing’s Future grow. At the end of July, there will be 15 chapters in Texas. Valley chapters are located in Brownsville, Port Isabel and McAllen.

Paul Treviño created the McAllen chapter last year, after meeting Wilson while fishing and felt inspired to help make a difference in children’s lives. Treviño is a certified orthopedic physician’s assistant and serves on the fishing tournament boards for University of Texas–Pan American Bronc athletic department and Edinburg Children’s Hospital Foundation. He is a master angler, an avid fisherman and promotes fishing conservation.

“As we become more of a metropolitan (area) we’re losing the opportunity of being connected to the environment and to one another. Fishing’s Future helps kids reconnect with both,” he said. “Kids don’t understand accountability, responsibility, and in fishing, they can learn some of those things.”

In the five-hour camp over the weekend, there are usually about 40 kids divided into five different stations. Every 20 minutes campers rotate to another station with their parent or relative by their side at all times. Campers learn basic fishing skills like casting strokes, how to tie knots, how to bait and rules and regulations of fishing.

“When we teach, the parent is also hands on. Both are learning. If parents learn faster, then they teach their son or daughter and are connected,” said Wilson. “That’s what we want.”

Campers are then treated to lunch and participate in trash clean up of the entire area.

“At our camps, we teach not only how to fish, but we also don’t want to leave a trace where we have fished,” said Treviño. “Picking up trash, respecting nature and one another is an important lesson we attempt to instill early.”

After trash pick up, families put their new fishing skills to a test. Campers are given a rod and reel to fish together for over two hours.

Wilson said fishing becomes memorable for everyone. Once a 13-year-old boy caught his first fish with his mother. The boy hugged his mother and told her that he loved her and was grateful for their fishing excursion. The mother cried and told Wilson she hadn’t had that type of connection with her son since her son had left the third-grade.

“That’s why I do what I do. It’s not about the fishing. It’s about the connection between kids, nature and to their parents and it works,” said Wilson. “Once parents see their kids catch a fish they gain so much pride. Chances are they will go fishing together again.”

Fishing’s Future camps usually draws in other certified anglers to help with instruction. All teachers are certified through Texas Parks & Wildlife, through a seven-hour course that Fishing’s Future pays for. Wilson also helps teach the certification classes, since he is the chief master angler of the area. Background checks are also administered.

“Our team in McAllen is just amazing. We have an angler from Zapata that comes to help at the camps and other professional anglers,” said Treviño. “We have a top notch team. Campers gain knowledge from expert fishermen.”

The camp is entirely free and everything needed for fishing is provided. Wilson runs the program with his life savings or donations from business and sponsors.

Fishing’s Future welcomes children from ages 6-16, though age is not a strict requirement, as long as a child can hold a rod. However, children must be accompanied by a family member, or someone they can bond with. Wilson said they don’t discriminate against anyone who wants to participate and also hold camps for children with disabilities.

Fishing camps locations vary. Wilson said as long as there is a body of water, a camp can take place. They have even taught casting strokes in a football field and visited many state parks.

“We have hidden gems here in the Valley for some fantastic fishing. There are places like Laguna Madre and South Padre Island,” said Treviño. “Falcon Lake has some of the best bass fishing in the world; many people don’t know this. We also have many canals, reservoirs and waterways to fish from.”

Fishing’s Future teaches more than just fishing. Wilson said they promote manners and safety. They also teach cooperation and equality amongst each other.

“Research clearly indicates that children that spend time out in nature, or participate in outdoor activities, are better academically than kids who do not,” said Wilson. “They are also less likely to get involved with gangs and drugs.”

The camps provide fun involvement for all, leading many to return.

“One little girl has come to three camps and is only 7 years old,” said Wilson. “We can only teach the basics so many times before they have them down.”

For those campers who have a continued interest in fishing, Fishing’s Future is putting a program together for regular tournaments. Tournaments will allow children from different chapters to compete against one another and demonstrate their skills. They are also hoping to have other advanced camps for kids who want to learn specific types of fishing like fly-fishing and fly-casting.

On June 4, the program will be having their first Junior Angler fishing tournament, sponsored by UTPA at South Padre Island.

“The tournament is for our chapters or any kids that want to compete. So we can see what they have learned,” said Treviño. “This is the future and the program is only going to grow and continue to make a difference in the community.”

Fishing’s Future made a difference for Twila Williams and her 9-year-old grandson. She went fishing with her grandson, at Falcon Lake, in April.

“It was absolutely wonderful and I would recommend it to everyone. It was very helpful as far as learning how to tie the fish hook on the line,” said Williams. “They taught us how to knot, taught the children how to cast and fish. They even served us lunch and it was all free!”

Williams said the anglers and everyone involved with the program did a great job teaching and making things easy for the children.

“They were very organized and had everything set-up nicely. They had boats, stations, and taught us safety and rules about illegal and legal fishing,” she said. “What made it even more special, is every part of the camp was really into helping and being with the children.”

The fishing camp’s experience for Williams and her grandson was memorable and they intend to fish again.

“If you get the opportunity to go, go. If you get an opportunity to donate money or support it, do so,” she said. “It’s something good for the children, gets them outdoors, involved and off the streets.”

For more information on upcoming camps or to make a donation visit http://www.fishingsfuture.org.

 

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