MONROE - Paul Lefere used a side-arm cast to swing his fiber-glass rod, sending the sinker and hook with a night crawler into the water about 20 feet from the shoreline.
A few minutes later, the 10-year-old Dundee boy exclaimed: "Hey. I got a bite!"
Young Lefere was among 13 boys and girls who participated last week in Project FISH (Friends Involved in Sportfishing Heritage), a day camp designed to get youngsters interested in fishing.
The morning workshop held at Bolles Harbor Math and Science Center was open to youngsters ages 10 to 12, and was the third of week-long camps offered by the Monroe County Intermediate School District.
After reeling in a four-inch bluegill, young Lefere, an upcoming fifth grader at Dundee Middle School, carefully removed the hook from his catch and released it into the pond on the grounds of the 60-acre educational facility near Lake Erie.
"The great part about fishing is just looking at the fish," the youngster said. "I like fish."
The day campers got a hands-on education on the skills and equipment of fishing: learning to tie knots, reel parts and tackle, assembling rods, casting techniques, baiting and harnessing hooks, making lures from jigs and plastic twisters, and handling their catch.
"The majority of them are beginners. Most of them didn't know much about fishing," said Cherie Hunter, the program's director.
Project FISH is a statewide program that uses mentoring and education to encourage youngsters to get excited about fishing and to promote the study of Great Lakes aquatic resources.
The program is sponsored by the Great Lakes Fishery Trust,
Michigan Department of Natural Resources, Michigan State University Extension, and Michigan United Conservation Clubs.
The youngsters spent two days in the classroom learning the fishing basics and took turns practicing on land by aiming their reels to get their weighted lines into hula hoops.
"It was amazing how well they learned to cast through the hula hoop," Ms. Hunter said.
After honing their casting skills, the group took rods to the water and hooked more than 60 fish, mostly bluegill and largemouth bass. All the fish were released.
Rick Kleinsmith, an ecology teacher at the center, also gave instruction on the species of Great Lakes fish and gave tips on how to identify one fish from another.
The youngsters also retrieved buckets of water from the pond at the center and looked at nearly invisible creatures under a powerful microscope.