Children are always in need of productive stimuli to engage their attention. New Angles for Success is a collaborative outreach program joining the Department of Environmental Protection’s Hooked on Fishing (HOFNOD) Program, some Atlantic City Schools in underrepresented areas, and Stockton University’s GNM 2249 Ecology and Saltwater Fishing class.
After learning marine biology and angling concepts from Stockton University professor Dr. Adam Aguiar, the college students teach 6th through 8th graders angling basics (safe casting and knot-tying techniques, beach reading, etc.), environmental resource importance and protection measures, beach and outdoor safety methods, and an appreciation for higher education. During some of the program’s events, like that of last fall on the Atlantic City boardwalk, the children enjoy activities such as casting competitions, Gyotaku fish printing, and marine fossil examination.
In June, the New Angles for Success program expanded to entail a youth fishing challenge at Stockton University’s Lake Fred. Over twenty participating children ranged from 2-16 years of age. The children were sharpened on their casting, rig-tying, and fishing handling skills before the competition started at 9 a.m. Also available were information stations that fostered expanded interest on related topics, such as those on marine fossils and Sea Grant-funded Stockton University Reef Assessment project. Though many participants brought their own bait and equipment, supplemental night-crawlers and meal worms were provided by HOFNOD.
Instructors, parents, and volunteers helped throughout the process as some kids racked-up of as many as 20 fish each! Fish landed included largemouth bass, chain pickerel, pumpkinseed, bluegill, yellow perch, catfish, and black banded sunfish. Turtles, frogs, and other common freshwater critters were seen and examined. After 4 hours of fishing, the children all received awards. Particularly nice rod and reel prizes were given to the largest, most, first, and oddest catches. The highest aggregated inches won a $300 rod and reel setup donated by the HOFNOD program.
Involvement of different departments and schools within the University, support and resources from the HOFNOD program and the New Jersey Outdoor Alliance (NJOA), and participation from the Principle Academy Charter School of Egg Harbor Township and Cedar Creek High School all made the event an impactful success.
“The testimonials are amazing of how parents raved about personal time, character building, outdoor education, and more,” said Marlene Crump, Special Education Director of Principle Academy Charter, a charter school that created their own fishing club the next day.
“Stockton University and all the ‘Hooked On Fishing Not Drugs Programs’ are phenomenal, lifelong learning, educational, a keepsake, and more,” said Crump, adding “Words cannot express families appreciation of how the program is needed.
Dr. Aguiar later noted, “As a life-long striper angler, this author once considered the landing of 50-pound bass the most rewarding of life experiences, but inspiring a passion for fishing in kids has proven even more so.”