Conner Pfalzgraf normally fishes in saltwater but a fishing camp at Jiggs Landing allowed the 11-year-old angler to cast his fishing rod in freshwater.
“Usually I catch more and bigger fish in saltwater,” he said from his boat Thursday afternoon. “I wanted to learn more about fishing and do it on my own.”
Pfalzgraf was one of nine children who participated in Manatee County’s fishing and basic boating skills camp held in partnership with Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission.
The first-year camp focused on teaching basic freshwater fishing skills to children learning how to captain their own boat, said Cary Catts, an education/volunteer specialist with the Manatee County Parks and Natural Resources Department.
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“Fishing can be a great way to spend time outdoors,” he said. “We teach the proper techniques of how to handle all the fishing equipment, and also be an ethical angler and make sure that we take care of these areas as well so that they can come out here and enjoy it and then kids in the future can continue to enjoy the same spaces.”
This was the first time 12-year-old Zach Kronenwetter ever fished on a boat.
“I really like the boating part because boats are really expensive,” he said. “We can’t always go boating.”
As a child, Catts went to a camp similar to this so it is a “dream come true” for him to be out on the water with today’s youth.
“Being able to provide the opportunity for them is really what makes it, at the end of the day, all well worth it and a great chance to see the kids out here enjoying the time,” he said.
Coral Bass, an education/volunteer specialist with the parks and natural resources department, said she loves teaching youngsters about what is out there on the water.
“If you expose children to being outdoors, they are going to love being outdoors,” she said. “That is what I love. That moment when you see the light bulb go off.”
The county conducted the fishing camp for two week-long sessions this summer. It could be expanded next year, according to Aedan Stockdale, program manager.
“We filled up both camps shortly after we announced,” he said. “We had people asking to open more spots. We are hoping to do more adventure camps next year. We recognize that we have the opportunity to do something special. It is definitely an unique experience for kids.”