Simply put: Kids rule. Although that might be the unofficial axiom in many households, amusement parks, and fast-food, drive-through lanes, it is also now etched in stone at several prime fishing ponds around the state. That's what the specially designated and service rich "youth fishing days" are all about.
A group of fisherman-friendly bodies of water, including the main pond at Maumee Bay State Park, have recently been stocked with plenty of interested, finned parties. The only anglers who are allowed access to this bounty of fish are those age 15 and under -- kids.
"This program is designed to get kids interested in fishing, since in the last few years that seems to have waned a bit," said Scott Denham, assistant park manager at Maumee Bay.
"They'll have a chance to fish without competition from adults, and they will be fishing in a pond that has plenty of fish in it. We hope the formula lets kids have fun, catch some fish, and enjoy the experience."
Starting at 9 a.m. Saturday, the pond at Maumee Bay is the sole property of the kids. The formal event that day, which includes a number of perks and extras, runs until 3 p.m., but the plan is to keep the pond a "youth-only" fishery for the near future.
The young anglers should be accompanied by a parent or guardian to assist them, and that parent or guardian does not need a fishing license, because they will be providing assistance and not fishing.
For Saturday's fish-o-rama, there will be live bait provided by the Ohio Division of Wildlife, and poles and fishing tackle available for those kids who do not have their own gear. Park personnel and wildlife officers will be on hand to help bait hooks and remove fish, while also providing basic fishing instruction.
The young anglers will be allowed to keep one fish, and Butch and Denny's Bait Shop from Curtice will be operating a fish cleaning station on-site to demonstrate the proper technique for preparing the catch for the skillet.
The pond at Maumee Bay State Park holds resident populations of large mouth bass, bluegills, catfish, and crappies, but to significantly enhance the kids' chances for success, close to 3,000 additional fish have been added. About 2,700 channel catfish from the state hatchery program and close to 1,000 green hybrid sunfish from a private hatchery were stocked in the pond this week.
"The fish are there, so all we need is the weather to cooperate and it should be an outstanding day," Denham said.
The pond is 8 to 10 feet deep and about six acres in size, so there will be plenty of room for a legion of young fishermen. It was carved out about 20years ago, with the excavated soil providing the base for the nearby sledding hill. The area around the pond is flat and gives easy access for the kids and the adults or guardians assisting them.
Youth fishing events will also be held on Saturday at Sycamore State Park west of Dayton; Delaware State Park, Caesar Creek State Park southwest of Xenia, and at the Wildlife District Three youth fishing ponds in Akron. A second youth fishing day is planned for Aug. 25 at the same locations.
The youth fishing days are part of the Ohio Department of Natural Resources' Youth Fishing Initiative, a pet project of ODNR director James Zehringer.
"This is an excellent way to encourage kids to spend time outdoors and fish in a stocked pond," Zehringer said. "We hope many families take advantage of this opportunity to create fishing memories."
In keeping with the theme that kids own the day, lunch for the young fishermen will be provided, along with drinks. Picnic tables and restrooms will be close by the fishing site. The fishing youths should bring their own sunscreen, sunglasses, and hats for solar protection.
The Ohio Division of Watercraft will have an educational display on boating safety at the Maumee Bay site, and local competitive bass angler Keith Mullen of Oregon will be on hand with his bass boat.
"There will be a lot going on, but the ultimate goal is simply to get kids outdoors and doing something fun," Denham said. "If we can rekindle some outdoors interests and get kids to experience the fun involved with fishing -- that's a reward in itself."
The youth-only fishing events around the state are partially funded by the sale of Ohio fishing licenses and by federal contributions from the Sport Fish Restoration Fund. More information on Saturday's Youth Fishing Day at Maumee Bay State Park is available at 419-836-7758.
Contact Blade outdoors editor Matt Markey at: email@example.com or 419-724-6068.