On Thursday, Nov. 10, Mote Marine Laboratory hosted a Teach-a-Kid Fishing & Ecology Clinic for James Tillman Elementary School students to discover the fun of sustainable fishing — not to mention why fish are so slippery, how to do the fishy art of Gyotaku and how young anglers can make a “reel” difference for marine environments.

During the fishing clinic, more than 80 fifth-grade students from James Tillman Elementary School learned from Mote scientists and 45 Mote volunteers including experienced anglers at Mote Aquaculture Research Park (MAP) — Mote’s sustainable fish farm in eastern Sarasota County.

The event included educational stations focused on fish biology and environment; spin casting; bait & tackle; ethical angling; Gyotaku fish printing; and pond fishing.

“Many of these kids have never been exposed to fishing before or anything else they are learning today, like responsible fishing, so we’re trying to give them lifelong lessons to take home and share with their families and classmates,” said Carole L. Neidig, Mote Staff Scientist.

“I always look forward to this event,” said Dr. Nate Brennan, Mote Staff Scientist, project co-organizer and co-originator with Neidig. “For us, the clinic is one of the most fulfilling events we do at Mote. I’m always amazed at the kids’ enthusiasm for the fishing activities – and even more so at how much they give back to us!”

The fishing clinics, situated under the oak trees around a 3-acre freshwater lake with a fishing dock, have been conducted annually in the spring and fall since 2008 as school- and public-based events. Brennan and Neidig collaborate with support staff from Mote’s Education, Development and Communications departments, along with volunteers from the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, local fishing guides and community members to operate the event.

Mote’s Education Department lead a Fish Biology and Environment station where the children learned all about fish, how to recycle fishing lines and so much more.

“The goal for today is to familiarize the kids with the different types of fish that live in our local waters,” said Brad Tanner, Senior School Programs Coordinator at Mote. “The more they know about their environment, the better chances are that they will start to make more informed decisions about marine conservation.”

At the end of the day, each child received a spin casting rod & reel, tackle kit and goodie bag of extra circle hooks, educational activity booklets and handouts, stickers, insulated water bottle holder, monofilament line recycle container, a “Junior Angler” certificate of completion, and much more.

“I know the kids will leave here today with a better understanding and appreciation for their environment and want to spend some of their free time in the great outdoors,” Neidig said. “Florida is such a beautiful place to live and we should all be taking advantage of it.”

The 2016 Teach-a-Kid Fishing & Ecology Clinic was made possible by the Fish Florida Foundation, Mote Scientific Foundation, J.L. Marine Systems, the Slaw Dawg (honoring Billy Claussen) Fund-Raiser sponsored by Bark & Company Realty, and in-kind support from local businesses, organizations, and individuals including Mote Marine Laboratory, Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, Gold Coast Eagle Distributing, Petland of Bradenton, Dunkin Donuts, Panera Bread, Bob Bell, Fish Brain, Coastal Angler Magazine, Karen Chadwick & Marie Walker and Family, the Siesta Key Fishing Club, Sunshine Bait & Tackle, and Diatchii.