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July 26, 2011

Kid's Fishing Day sets sail in early August in south Florida

Sport Fishing Making a Difference winner Tom Twyford has helped coordinate the event for the past 24 years.

LANTANA - Approximately 400 area youth will participate in the Palm Beach County Fishing Foundation's  (PBCFF) 24th annual Kid's Fishing Day program at Bicentennial Park in Lantana.  This heartwarming program, sponsored by the Marine Industries Association of Palm Beach County and other community businesses and individuals, will take place Tuesday, August 2nd through Thursday, August 4th. For the past 24 years, this unique outreach program has targeted children from throughout Palm Beach County who don't normally have the opportunity or means to experience offshore fishing aboard a big boat.  Kids are treated to a special day of marine environmental education, angling instruction and a deep-sea fishing adventure. Youngsters from various area summer recreation programs and church youth groups are scheduled to participate.  In addition to the children, approximately 100 volunteers will also take part.

For some of the children, the ocean encounter will be a first time experience. "Riding on a big boat in the ocean and getting the opportunity to tug on something that may be as big as they are is a huge thrill for these kids.  Last year, one lucky angler landed a 30 pound blackfin tuna!" said Tom Twyford, who has helped coordinate the event for the past 24 years. "Catching a fish is a bonus though; just the adventure of cruising out the inlet and seeing a flying fish or sea turtle as they head offshore is a big deal for some of the youngsters.  In the past, we have had kids from Pahokee who had never even seen the ocean before."  In addition to a fishing trip aboard the Lady K drift boat, the kids will also learn about fishing techniques and boating safety.  Each youth group will rotate through a series of educational activity stations which include knot tying, how to cast a fishing rod, how to set up a tackle box and how to be a responsible angler.  A marine 'touch tank' provided by the Florida Fish & Wildlife Conservation Commission will highlight the land-based activities.  "With the help of marine biologists and local fishing experts the kids will be able to interact with some of the marine animals that live right here in the Lake Worth Lagoon.  We also teach the kid's why it is important to protect mangroves and sea grasses.  The touch tank is an entertaining and effective teaching tool that helps convey the message 'With no habitat, there are no fish'," continued Twyford.

Most of the children range in age from 8 to 14 years old. The program, which is offered free of charge by the PBCFF provides each child with a special T-shirt, lunch, drinks, a two hour drift fishing trip and personalized certificates of participation.  Each kid will also be presented with a new fishing rod and reel, sponsored by the Florida Foundation For Responsible Angling.   "Of course, by the end of the program they will know how to put it to good use," added Twyford.   Adult volunteers, many from the West Palm Beach Fishing Club, supervise the kids and serve as program instructors during the event.  The various activities and interaction between the adults and children help improve each child's self-esteem and personal confidence.  "We believe that programs like this one help give kids a greater appreciation for the marine environment and build better environmental stewards for the future. It's certainly a memorable first-time introduction for many of the kids," said Pete Schulz, Chairman of the PBCFF.  Since its inception in 1988, over 10,000 kids have benefited from the program.  "Occasionally, we even see kids who had participated years ago return as volunteers, which is very rewarding," added Schulz.

Kid's Fishing Day is underwritten by many generous businesses and organizations. The event's title sponsor, the Marine Industries Association of Palm Beach County, has been actively involved since its inception.  Other sponsors supporting the effort include the Fish Florida, Florida Fish & Wildlife Conservation Commission, Delray Yacht Cruises, the law firm of Gordon & Doner, Bev Smith Toyota Kia, Chick-fil-A, the Palm Beach County Justice Association, the 4th annual Lake Worth Fishing Tournament and the Palm Beach County KDW Classic fishing tournament.  For many years, the Town of Lantana has also been an instrumental partner in this program.  "The Town of Lantana has really embraced this program through the years, providing us with not only an ideal venue at Bicentennial Park but also playing a supportive role through their police and parks departments." said Twyford.  Additional support for the event is provided by individuals who help sponsor one or more children with a donation of $35 or more.  For additional information, please call  (561) 832-6780.