A Fishing Library: Outdoor-oriented, COVID-era Innovation for Kids
Eve Flanigan 09.03.20
The Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife (ODFW) has partnered with several libraries in coastal Lincoln County to give bored kids something to do while school, athletics, and civic activities are disrupted. A combination of learning, lending, and sponsored freebies is grooming a new generation of fishermen in the COVID era.
An existing lending library of fishing gear, sponsored by ODFW, has been relocated to local libraries, where youth 17 and younger can borrow the gear using curbside pickup. This program may be extended to adults in fall 2020, depending on its popularity with the younger set.
Licensure for fishing is a separate matter and is required in the state for anyone 12 or older. There is help available with this too, through one of the handful of state-certified angler education volunteers. These volunteers can also offer assistance to new fishermen of any age. Assistance can include in-person instruction with COVID-safe practices.
Kids can check out rods and reels for two weeks under the program. Also included for new participants is a starter angler kit with all supplies needed to start fishing.
There are even resources for learning before hitting the shoreline. Each library is also stocked (pun intended) with practice poles, outfitted with rubber casting plugs, used to reel in plastic fish, also available for checkout.
Free informational materials are available for anyone in the program. A brochure about angling, salmon and trout ID cards, and instructions on what to do after reeling in the catch are included.
Funding for these unique libraries was provided by ODFW’s Salmon and Trout Enhancement Program. “Many kids’ activities have been cancelled due to Covid-19 and families are spending more time outdoors instead,” said Christine Clapp, ODFW fish biologist in Newport. “We don’t want the lack of equipment to be a barrier to any child who wants to go fishing.”
With a preparatory call to reserve equipment and turn in a parental liability release, any kid in Lincoln County, Oregon can avail themselves of a new form of recreation and learning through fishing.
This innovative program appears to be a model that could be adapted in other communities. After all, most areas of the country have some sort of fishing available. It also seems that, with some added features from motivated parents or other home educators, the angling library concept could be a great opportunity to expand children’s official learning for nature, science, and life skills.