Mote Marine Laboratory & Aquarium hosted one of their popular Teach-A-Kid Fishing & Ecology Clinics in November at Mote Aquaculture Research Park in Sarasota County, delighting and educating 88 fifth grade students from Florine J. Abel Elementary.

Students learned the basics of fishing and environmental stewardship. They also toured the unique aquaculture research facility and tried their hand at fishing in a pond on property. The no-cost clinic was presented by Carol and Barney Barnett with generous support from the Manatee Fish & Game Conservation Fund at the Manatee Community Foundation, Fish Florida, Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC), Willis A. Smith Construction and Gold Coast Eagle Distributing/Icelandic Glacier.

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 rotated through five different hands-on stations during the clinic: fish biology, casting, bait and tackle, ethical angler and sun/water safety, and fishing at the pond, where many children caught their first fish. At the end of the clinic, each child went home with a rod and tackle kit courtesy of Fish Florida and a gift bag, filled with educational materials and fishing items from Daiichi Hooks, DOA Fishing Lures, FWC, Mirrolures/L&S Bait, North American Marine Environmental Protection Association and Mote.

“I look forward to this event every year, as it is one of the most rewarding parts of my job here at Mote,” said Carole Neidig, Staff Scientist in Mote’s Directorate of Fisheries and Aquaculture. “We usually receive thank-you letters from the students after the event. Many of the children have never fished before, and being able to provide that experience that they would otherwise not have is truly special. We couldn’t do it without our sponsors and dedicated volunteers.” Neidig has been involved with the Teach-A-Kid clinic since its inception in 2008.

While Mote also hosts an annual public fishing clinic associated with the William R. Mote Memorial Snook Shindig, the Teach-A-Kid clinic is unique in that it is offered to students from Title 1 schools at no cost to the school or the participants. Now in its 10th year, the Teach-A-Kid Fishing & Ecology Clinic has reached almost 2,000 underserved students from Sarasota and Manatee counties.

“We have great relationships with the schools in Sarasota and Manatee counties,” said Aly Busse, Mote’s Assistant Vice President for Education. “At Mote, we believe ocean conservation begins with education, and we are proud to be able to offer these types of programs to our local youth and excite them about our marine and coastal ecosystems.”