There’s a hidden agenda behind the Eighth Annual Weeks Bay Kids Fishing Day, to be held Saturday, May 5, from 8 a.m. until 2 p.m., at the Safe Harbor Pond across from the Weeks Bay National Estuarine Research Reserve on Highway 98 at Fish …
There’s a hidden agenda behind the Eighth Annual Weeks Bay Kids Fishing Day, to be held Saturday, May 5, from 8 a.m. until 2 p.m., at the Safe Harbor Pond across from the Weeks Bay National Estuarine Research Reserve on Highway 98 at Fish River.
Sure, the free event might seem innocent enough — kids and their parents enjoying a day alongside the water, catching a few fish for dinner. Nonetheless, there’s so much more lurking just beneath the surface.
We grilled Walter Ernest, executive director of the Weeks Bay Foundation, one of the organizations sponsoring the event. Everything he said naturally sounded a little fishy, but even though it soon became clear he was baiting us, we still swallowed his entire story — hook, line and sinker.
“For some kids, it’s the first time they’ve ever caught a fish,” Ernest noted. “And it’s a bonding experience for these kids and their parents. It’s all about the excitement when you hear these children squeal when they catch a fish.”
We reeled in Ernest and he admitted that Kids Fishing Day is also about giving young people a chance to enjoy Baldwin County’s natural resources, something that could instill in them a lifelong appreciation of nature, along with a desire to protect it.
“When you work in the environmental field, you do it for future generations,” he said. “When you do a family fishing day, the kids will remember it for years. Unfortunately, kids aren’t getting outdoors as much as they used to.”
Ernest said many of the children come back to the Weeks Bay event each year, although some who turn out are newcomers who have never had an opportunity to toss a line in the water. Last year, more than 200 kids gathered around the pond.
It really shouldn’t come as much of a surprise, Ernest pointed out, that a growing number of the fairer sex are trying their luck.
“You see more and more girls every year,” he said. “You have to see the smiles on these kids’ faces. Twenty years ago, you wouldn’t have seen all these girls fishing.”
All the girls, and even the boys, have a good chance of getting a nibble, and will hopefully land a fish.
Ernest said the pond is being stocked with 1,200 pounds of freshwater catfish prior to the outing, which will take their place alongside the bream and large mouth bass already thriving there.
Organizers are providing bait, Ernest said, and a very limited number of fishing rods are available for loan from the Alabama Department of Conservation and Natural Resources (ADCNR). Moms and dads are encouraged to bring gear for the kids, however, because there is not enough to go around.
There is no charge to take part, but registration is required and a parent or guardian must accompany each child.
Registration forms are available at the Weeks Bay Reserve Interpretive Center, the Faulkner State Community College administration office in Fairhope and online at www.weeksbay.org. Tickets may be picked up at the reserve. On-site registration will be possible the day of the event.
“They don’t need to be there right at 8, but many have and stay until 2 o’clock,” Ernest said.
He said the event was established in partnership with Dr. John Borom, a longtime foundation leader; the Baldwin County Commission and the ADCNR Wildlife and Freshwater Fisheries and State Lands divisions. Danny’s Fried Chicken has always provided chicken livers for bait, he added.
“We would have never been able to do it without them,” he said. “The reserve staff and volunteers have also been very supportive. The volunteers cook for us. We have hot dogs for the kids.”
The Weeks Bay Kids Fishing Day is sponsored by the Weeks Bay Reserve Foundation, the Weeks Bay National Estuarine Research Reserve, the Alabama Department of Conservation and Natural Resources (ADCNR) Wildlife and Freshwater Fisheries, ADCNR State Lands Division Coastal Section, the Baldwin County Commission, Danny’s Fried Chicken and Coca Cola Bottling Consolidated.
For more information, call Walter Ernest at 990-5004.