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Youth trout day a long overdue positive event TOM VENESKY OUTDOORS


February 17. 2013 8:20AM


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Fishing on the opening day of trout season can be tough for a kid.


Along most stocked waterways, competition for real estate is fierce when it comes to find a place to cast from and a spot in the water to cast to.


Anglers get bumped, lines get tangled and tempers sometimes flare. And unfortunately, respect gets thrown to the wayside.


The entire experience can be an intimidating one for a child, and it shouldn't be that way.


Last week, the Pennsylvania Fish and Boat Commission took a step to help children enjoy the opening day of trout without enduring the throngs of adults that crowd favorite fishing spots. The PFBC found the ultimate solution to the problem – one that hopefully sits well with everyone.


They gave kids their own opening day.


The concept is long overdue, yet still a very proactive approach by the board as it unanimously approved its first mentored youth program that essentially gives kids -- those 16 and under -- their own opening day of trout season. The concept is the same as the Pennsylvania Game Commission's mentor program, and it makes perfect sense.


Beginning in the spring of 2013, kids will be able to fish the Saturday before the season opener in the southeast on select waters within the 18-county region.


The waterways will be stocked with trout ahead of time, and those participating must register for the program and be accompanied by a mentor who has a valid fishing license and trout permit. The youth and the adult mentor can both fish, and they can each keep two trout, insuring there will be enough left over when the opening day for the rest of us comes around a week later.


Kingston resident Norm Gavlick, who is one of 10 commissioners on the PFBC board, said he expects the mentor program to be well-received by the angling public.


If any adult anglers do take exception to letting a child have the first shot at catching a couple trout, shame on them.


"It's going to be a great opportunity for kids to have some space out there and get first crack at catching a couple trout," he said.


That first crack could pay dividends for years to come. If children have an enjoyable experience on opening day, chances are they'll want to do it again and eventually become license buyers.


Gavlick also said the board will re-examine the mentor program and will likely discuss expanding it to other areas, if not the entire state.


Let's hope that happens.


Nothing captures a child's attention like fishing for trout on opening day. It has all the elements needed to make for a memorable experience.


A kids-only opening day will make sure those memories are positive.


In fact, I wish it was around when I was a kid. Growing up, there was nothing I loved more that trout fishing. Nothing could keep me away from the banks of my favorite stocked stream on opening day -- not weather, illness, homework, nothing at all.


Almost.


There were a few opening days in my childhood when crowds made it difficult simply to have an opportunity to fish. Those crowds – filled with adults -- were so focused on catching stocked trout that sometimes I got bumped out of the way.


It was a disheartening experience, and it's one that I've seen other kids endure today.


Kids are the future of our sport, and there's only one thing that's going to keep them involved -- make fishing fun.


On March 23, it's going to be a blast.


Tom Venesky covers the outdoors for The Times Leader. Reach him at tvenesky@timesleader.com




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