Summer Fishing Camp Adventures in Okeechobee
When your county borders the largest lake in Florida, you have plenty of opportunities to go fishing. During the summer, young individuals from Okeechobee participated in the third annual “Fishing and Conservation Camp” this summer. However, this fishing camp was not just a fishing experience. Youth learned all about conservation regulations, water safety, and various types of baits, enriching their knowledge beyond fishing itself. This weeklong, day camp was made up of 15 youth campers, ages ranging from 8–13 years old, with two teen counselors and 4 adults.
The camp is designed for kids to use the 4-H Motto “learn by doing”. Therefore, several days of the camp are centered around learning a new skill associated with fishing or recreational conservation. The first day of camp activities included learning stations, where campers rotated from station to station learning all about fishing. Stations had bait-making, knot-tying and casting, and fish fact matching. Youth, also got to go out on a boat in the Kissimmee River and cast their poles a few times.
The remainder of the week was dedicated to exploring different venues to learn about the fishing industry. We visited Imperial Tropicals in Lakeland where we delved into the world of tropical fish, all of which interestingly were non-native to Florida. A memorable experience awaited us on the Atlantic Ocean aboard Miss Fort Pierce, where we landed fish that we ate the next day for lunch at our fish fry. Before devouring our previous day’s catch, we dove into learning all about snorkeling, safety in the water, and the importance of life jackets at our county’s sports complex. Friday was our culminating activity day on the St. Lucie County inlet beach where campers spent time snorkeling, swimming, and of course more fishing.
Youth campers truly followed the 4-H motto “learn by doing” as they were able to put practice into place each day of camp. They gained knowledge about rules and regulations set forth by the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) and understood the importance of following safety guidelines when fishing.
This camp is made possible by a grant funded by the Children’s Services Council of Okeechobee. This camp is offered every summer. If you missed out this year, be sure to reach out to the 4-H office in May of next year when camp registrations come out. If fishing doesn’t interest you, we have plenty of other camps that might tickle your fancy. You can reach us at 863-763-6469 or visit our Facebook page to stay connected.
Fish Camp through pictures:
Learning fish seasons
This red snapper weighed approximately 25 pounds and put up a great fight but had to be released because of the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission regulations. We were a month too early for Red Snapper season on the Atlantic Ocean.
This mangrove snapper was a keeper and was part of our fish fry the following day. Youth who had never eaten fish before were eager to try it for the first time.
Campers chose their jig body, skirt, and feather colors while a 4-H youth volunteered to make the jigs for each participant as they watched the process.
Making soft plastic baits with a mold was a little tricky because the liquid plastic was extremely hot. Campers had to be extremely careful when using their plunger to push the liquid plastic into their molds.
Field trip to Imperial Tropicals in Lakeland
Learning about the care of tropical fish from Imperial Tropicals Fish farm in Lakeland. Campers learned all about non-native fish and how important it is to keep them in a fish tank and not release them into our freshwater ponds and lakes.