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Illinois hunting and fishing

Kyamber Williams, 8, of Peoria (right) holds up the first fish she has ever caught while Wyatt Nitzsche (left) hoists a small bullhead Thursday at Peoria’s Glen Oak Lagoon.

Fishing in the city

June 18, 2010 at 03:45 PM

Fishing clinics

Click here for more information on the Urban Fishing Program and other sites across Illinois that will be open to the free fishing clinics this summer.

 

Unlike some fellow campers participating in the morning’s fishing clinic, wetting a line is not a new experience for Turner. The 7-year-old claims he once caught 18 bluegill on the same worm while fishing with his grandfather.

Judging by Turner’s skill with rod and reel, he might even be telling the truth.

But for plenty of other youngsters, there is real opportunity in the urban fishing program that started Thursday at Glen Oak lagoon. Clinics are held twice a day during the week through Aug. 16, with the aim to get more inner-city youngsters involved in fishing.

Mission accomplished for Kyamber Williams, 8, of Peoria, who was fishing for the first time. After hooking her first fish, she was squeamish about touching the wiggling hybrid bluegill. Not so for bluegill No. 2, which she carefully pulled off the hook before dancing around excitedly as the fish flopped back into the lagoon.

“I caught two fish and I took one off the hook by myself,” she yelled to a camp counselor. “This is awesome.”

Williams was one of 18 youngsters on hand from the Peoria Park District’s Camp Zone. Most caught fish. Not everyone was so lucky, as Aaron Forck of Peoria had to be content to locate a handful of fish bones.

Catching fish beats finding bones, said camp staffer Jimmy Jordan, who brings groups to the fishing clinics every Thursday.

“They get excited about fishing, but if they come out here for a couple weeks and they’re not catching any fish, they’ll start to ask if they have to go,” Jordan said.

Judging by the schools of bullheads and bluegills swimming through the lagoon, there should be plenty of bites to keep the youngsters busy. That said, fish stocked for this year’s program look fairly small. Perhaps those small fish are a sign of the state’s woeful fiscal standing.

There’s no question budget problems have had an impact on the clinic schedule. Most years there are only a handful of openings left once the fishing program starts. But fishing instructor Lei Scarff of Galesburg said she has vacancies for numerous afternoons and most Wednesdays.

“A lot of what I’m hearing is people who say they don’t have money to pay for field trips or even to pay for gas for their buses,” Scarff said.

That’s a shame. For some it might also be an opportunity. While the urban fishing program is designed for groups, Scarff said there are openings for individuals and small groups.

So if you find yourself stuck with bored kids or grandkids some weekday, you might want to consider a trip to Glen Oak lagoon.

The free clinics target youngsters 16 and under and are held from 9 a.m. to noon and from 1-4 p.m. Participants learn angling regulations and receive basic instruction in knot-tying, casting and fish identification. Rods, reels and baits are then provided for about 90 minutes of catch-and-release fishing.

For more information or to reserve a space, call (309) 681-2865.

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