A group of 97 fifth-graders from Brentwood Elementary School in Sarasota County discovered the fun of sustainable fishing during Mote Marine Laboratory’s Teach-A-Kid Fishing & Ecology Clinic on Nov. 19 at Mote Aquaculture Research Park in eastern Sarasota County.
Guided by Mote scientists, educators and volunteers, students learned best fishing practices and environmental stewardship, toured Mote’s sustainable fish-farming research facilities and tested their fishing skills in the pond on site. There, some students caught their first fish.
“I saw my bobber go under and I reeled it in, and caught a sunfish,” said student Diana Escobedo. “I was excited and I was also scared because I had never fished before.”
How did it feel to catch her first fish? “Great!”
Student Najaden Holloway caught a catfish, and he reeled in some new knowledge too. “I learned how to cast, and I learned there’s a legal length for fish and you have to measure it before you know if you can take it.”
Mote's Dr. Ryan Schloesser and Brentwood Elementary student Najaden Holloway show off the fish that Holloway caught in Mote's pond. Credit: Mote Marine Laboratory
“For a lot of these kids, it was their first time fishing; some of them have never really been near water like this,” said Brentwood educator Cristi Eslinger. “It’s a special, educational experience that they really looked forward to, and honestly this is even bigger and more special than we expected. I think one of the biggest things they’ll take away from this is the ethical fishing—not just as a sport, but also how we can help the environment. We’re a Title 1 school and these kids don’t get many opportunities like this; having something like this is amazing—so thank you Mote.”
In turn, Mote offers a huge thanks to the sponsors who helped to make this no-cost fishing clinic possible: Fish Florida, Community Foundation of Sarasota County, Willis A. Smith Construction, McGriff Insurance Services, Florida Tackle Club, Gecko's Hospitality Group, Salt Life, West Marine and John Christopher Malkin LLC. Each student went home with a new rod, reel and tackle kit supported by a grant from Fish Florida, along with a Salt Life hat, a Gecko’s gift certificate, West Marine discount coupon, marine science books, and a Junior Angler Certificate
Mote volunteers and staff from Mote’s Fisheries and Aquaculture Directorate and Education Department worked together to encourage and educate the students during the event. Students learned about casting, bait and tackle, ethical angler practices and sun/water safety, fish biology and habitat ecology, and of course, how to fish like champs in Mote’s pond.
Mote staff scientists Carole Neidig and Dr. Nathan Brennan co-led the exciting event.
“It was truly rewarding to share sustainable fishing and fisheries science with the bright, engaged and curious students from Brentwood Elementary,” Neidig said. “We hope that many of them will be inspired to dive deeper into sustainable fishing and environmental stewardship, and carry on the joy of today’s event.”
Brennan guided and educated the students fishing from the dock. “That magic moment of catching your first fish, and learning something new about the underwater world, might just inspire a lifetime of ethical fishing and ocean stewardship.”
Brennan noted that, since Mote began its annual fishing clinics in 2008, the events have served more than 1,400 students.