Catching your first fish is a memory that can stick with you for a lifetime.
The Go Fish recreational fishing program is attempting to share that good feeling with as many young people as possible throughout the month of May.
This weekend the Go Fish grand opening will take place at the Hall Road pond in Mission Creek Regional Park on Saturday and at the netted fishing area in Shannon Lake Regional Park on Sunday from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m.
Regional parks staff and volunteers from local fish and game clubs will be on hand to provide a barbecue and refreshments while young people cast their lines and hope for the best.
During the weekends in May following the kick off event, kids are invited to come and try to catch a rainbow trout at the two locations. No fishing licence is required for children under 16.
Each Saturday volunteers from the Kelowna and District Fish and Game Club and Lonely Loons Flyfishers Society will provide equipment and expert fishing guidance at the Hall Road pond.
Members of the Peachland Sportsmen’s Association will lend their fishing expertise each Saturday in the south end of Shannon Lake in Shannon Lake Regional Park.
Regional park services staff will provide equipment and assistance on Sundays at the two locations.
Al Springer, past president of the Peachland Sportsmen’s Association, came up with the Go Fish concept several years ago.
“About seven or eight years ago, I talked to our club—we felt that there really wasn’t a place to take kids fishing,” said Springer.
He said that he knew Shannon Lake would be an ideal location to put a stocked net across the bay.
“I talked to the Ministry of Environment about it. (Fisheries biologist) Brian Jantz came down to the lake and he couldn’t see any reason why we couldn’t do it. That’s where it started.”
Springer said that the Go Fish program has been “well attended” over the years, with people coming out all day long.
“We have about 50 fishing rods and we have a number of people that will replace hooks, put bait on for the kids and show them how to fish.”
According to Springer, some excellent young anglers have honed their skills through the Go Fish program.
“They’re only allowed to take one (fish) a day, but some kids will catch 20 in a day.
“There are other kids that have trouble, but we’ve kind of got it figured out and we try to make it so they can catch a fish.”
Teaching kids about fishing, and the outdoors in general, is important to Springer.
“In this day and age, you have to have a reason for going outside. Everybody is inside watching TV and playing on computers.
“This is a way of introducing a different type of entertainment.”
He added that young people will likely fish later in life if they can build the basic skills at an early age.
On Thursday, representatives from the Freshwater Fisheries Society of B.C. were at the netted portion in Shannon Lake, stocking the area with hundreds of rainbow trout.
Springer said that the net will stay in Shannon Lake until the end of June to accommodate a family fishing derby on June 16 and other children’s fishing events.
Although fishing equipment will be available to use, those who have their own equipment are encouraged to bring it.