Introduce young people to hunting and fishing

February 9, 2013

Hunting seasons, with the exception of snow geese, are over, and fishing is restricted to tog and sea bass in the ocean. So what’s an outdoorsman to do? I have an idea. How about getting involved in conserving the resource, learning a new skill or getting nonoutdoorsmen or young people interested in our activities?

One of the ways to do all at the same time is by joining a local hunting or fishing club. Most, if not all, of these clubs engage in some sort of conservation work, be it cleaning the beaches or planting cover for game birds.

They usually have programs for introducing young people to the outdoors. This can vary from sponsoring fishing trips to teaching firearms safety. In today’s world with so many single-parent homes, it is especially important for those of us with the time and the skills to make a difference in a young boy's or girl’s life.

The local BASS clubs have programs to teach kids how to fish and often participate in casting competitions. I have been slightly involved in the casting contests, and believe me when I tell you most of the girls can outcast most of the boys. The most important thing is they all have a great time.

The Delaware Saltwater Fly Fishing Club holds meetings and offers fly-tying instructions every Saturday morning at Lewes Harbour Marina at the end of Anglers Road in Lewes. If you have any interest or think you might have an interest in this phase of the sport, stop by and before you leave you will have a real good idea of what is involved, from tying flies to getting the proper tackle and equipment. These guys and girls welcome young people and will go out of their way to help them get started.

While I was pleasantly surprised at the number of anglers who turned out for the public hearing on removing commercial gear from reef sites in federal water, that is the exception rather than the rule. Too many times there is little or no interest in public hearings that involve recreational fishing. This is another area where the angler can become involved and have some input. It is also an opportunity to learn how the process works.

This winter there will be a public hearing on the 2013 summer flounder regulations in Delaware. The word is we could get some relief from the high minimum size and low bag limits of the past. If you fish for summer flounder in Delaware, I suggest you attend this hearing.

If you are a boater, the Coast Guard Auxiliary holds regular meetings and participates in numerous safety programs. The best known of these are the free boat inspections given every year at different locations throughout the state. They check for all safety equipment and then give you a sticker and a certificate indicating you have passed. This may give you a free pass should the Coast Guard or DNREC Enforcement be conducting safety inspections at the launch ramp.

Another service offered by the auxiliary is the safe boating classes. These start with the basic class that covers safety and beginning navigation, and move to more advanced classes up to celestial navigation. Even if you don’t join, you should take one or more of the classes. The more you know, the better you can operate your own boat, making you less of a hazard to yourself, your passengers and the rest of us on the water.

If boating classes are not your thing, how about a program on the nature of Sussex County? Prime Hook National Wildlife Refuge, Delaware State Parks, and the Fish and Wildlife Division hold various classes throughout the year on everything from birds that winter in our area to the stars in the winter sky. Many of these programs are held outdoors, so you get a bit of exercise along with an education. I promise no matter how many hunting or fishing trips you have been on, you will see an entirely different world when you go afield with a trained naturalist.

My sons had firearms safety taught to them in elementary school. I thought this was a brilliant idea, and they have since had further safety instructions in the Boy Scouts and prior to getting their first hunting licenses. To the best of my knowledge, firearms safety is no longer taught in school, and that is where you can help. The state does have instructors for different programs, and I am sure it could use a few more.

Once you have been certified, it is possible to teach not only in state-sponsored classes, but also by organizing classes through your church or other social groups. Knowing how to handle firearms can result in fewer accidental shootings and will give the young person knowledge he or she can use throughout life.

  • Eric Burnley is a Delaware native who has fished and hunted the state from an early age.  Since 1978 he has written countless articles about hunting and fishing in Delaware and elsewhere along the Atlantic Coast.  He has been the regional editor for Salt Water Sportsman, Field and Stream, Outdoor Life and the Fisherman Magazine.  He was the founding editor of the Mid-Atlantic Fisherman magazine.  Eric is the author of three books; Surf Fishing the Atlantic Coast, The Ultimate Guide to Striped Bass Fishing and Fishing Saltwater Baits.  He and his wife Barbara live near Milton, Delaware. Eric can be reached at

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