Thanks to Fish Florida, 4-H youth across the panhandle are exploring their sparks related to fishing and Florida’s natural resources. Fish Florida supports organizations like 4-H that teach people, especially children, about Florida’s fish and aquatic habitats through donations of fishing equipment, grants, and scholarships. Their mission is to promote public awareness of and encourage the protection of marine fisheries and coastal habitats through non-formal education. Because their mission aligns so well with the mission of Florida 4-H, this partnership has been very successful.
Six Florida panhandle counties received equipment and funds to support 4-H fishing clubs and day camps, reaching 43 adult volunteers and nearly 200 youth. Through these programs, 4-H faculty, staff, and volunteers taught young people about different types of fishing equipment, how to rig a rod and reel, how to cast, how to tie different types of fishing knots, how to identify Florida fresh and saltwater fish, how to fish ethically (following Florida Fish and Wildlife regulations), water and boating safety, and more.
One 4-H youth shared, “I always enjoyed going fishing before, but now I understand what types of equipment and bait I need to use to catch the type of fish I like to catch. This program has also helped me understand why we have certain regulations to protect Florida habitats.”
Youth participating in the 4-H sportfishing program had the opportunity to visit a variety of Florida habitats to learn about different fish, including salt water, brackish water, and freshwater. They also met with professionals in the fishing and wildlife industries to learn about potential careers related to the fishing industry, as well as conserving Florida’s unique natural habitats. This program would not have been possible without the support from Fish Florida, which is funded through the sales of the Florida Sailfish specialty license plate.
4-H programs in Florida’s panhandle provide several ways for youth to explore their interests related to fishing and the outdoors:
- Clubs- Youth can participate in 4-H clubs that are focused on fishing, natural resources, and the outdoors (shooting sports, ATV safety, camping). Clubs are the foundation of 4-H. A 4-H club is a group of five or more youngsters guided by one or more adults. A club can be any size–from a small group of kids from the same neighborhood to a large group of youth from within the county. Clubs typically meet at least once a month to participate in activities to learn more about a topic. These activities might include games, field trips, guest speakers, and contests. To learn more about what a 4-H club is, visit our website.
- Day Camps– Many counties offer day camps focused on fishing and the outdoors. These are typically held during the summer months, or on non-school days. Day camps are a great way for youth who are new to 4-H to get a feel for what 4-H offers.
- Residential Camps– 4-H Camp Timpoochee in Niceville, FL offers residential camps to help youth explore Florida’s environments. This camp is the oldest 4-H camp in Florida and is located on the Choctwhathatchee Bay.
- School Programs– Counties offer a variety of programs through the schools to support non-formal learning. One of these programs is the Florida Youth Naturalists. The Florida Youth Naturalists program guides youth through an exploration of Florida’s uplands, wetlands, and coastal ecosystems and was inspired by the Master Naturalist Program, which is targeted toward adults.
- Contests– Youth can also participate in contests related to the fields of conservation and ecology such as the 4-H Wildlife Ecology Contest at the North Florida Fair. Activities and study guides to prepare for 4-H Wildlife Ecology can be found online. The deadline to register for the 4-H Wildlife Ecology Contest is October 13. Another contest related to outdoor education is the 4-H Forest Ecology Contest. A clinic to prepare for the State 4-H Forest Ecology Contest will be held on October 14th, and the deadline to register for the clinic is September 23 in 4HOnline.
Check out our 4-H Sportfishing Project Page to learn more about our programs related to fishing. To learn more about Fish Florida, or how you can support them through the Sailfish License Plate program, visit their website. To learn more about opportunities for you to share your passion for fishing with the next generation, or to get your child involved, contact your local UF IFAS County Extension Office.