Photo by Charity Maness/Fall River County Herald Star
Destiny Webb along with J.R. Shaffner, Director Casting Vets, show off their fishing skills at Cottonwood Monday during the BGC teen fishing program.
By Charity Maness
HOT SPRINGS – The Boys and Girls Club of Hot Springs has joined forces with Casting Vets on Mondays for teen fishing fun.
“The Boys and Girls Club began the teen fishing program last year at the request of the kids,” said the club’s Kate Highfill, a request she gladly took to heart as she has been fishing since she was a youngster.
Her next step was to work with Casting Vets Director J.R. Schaffner, Army 2002-2008, to create a union to benefit the youth; he wholeheartedly agreed and the teen fishing program was successfully begun.
This is the second year of the program and it continues to grow.
“It is so much fun,” said Mira Ealyan, 12, “I came last year and we fished at Angostura and Coldbrook, and now we are fishing at Cottonwood.” Mira, though quite a good fisherman, also enjoys just being out in nature. “I keep myself busy when I’m not fishing too, I always find something fun to do. Like right now I’m making a raft,” she beamed pointing at a creation of fallen tree limbs interwoven with reeds.
According to Mira, it’s not just about fishing. “I’ve learned there are so many more species of fish than trout and bass,” she said, “lots more.”
Destiny Webb, 15, also enjoys the fishing program. “The bonding is the best,” she said, “and listening to J.R.’s stories and getting tackle stuck in the bushes with Kate.”
“That is true,” said Highfill, who works for the Boys & Girls Club but also site on the board of directors of Casting Vets. “Our tackle gets stuck in the weeds, a lot.”
Tackle issues seem to be the norm and the bane of Highfill and Schaffner’s existence.
“The most difficult thing is getting them to stop tangling the gear,” said Schaffner.
“We do lose a lot of tackle,” said Highfill.
But even stuck tackle is shrugged off as a learning experience and soon after being untangled the teens are back to casting and reeling in fish after fish; and then releasing.
The youth learn about the equipment, proper bait for the fish they are fishing for, as well as how to hook the bait correctly and how to remove a hook from a fish.
Minnows and worms are the more common bait used in the program, but some teens don’t like the live bait.
“Destiny doesn’t like hooking live bait,” said Schaffner, “she likes lures.”
Even though she almost always refuses to bait her own hook, Destiny has the honor of having caught the largest fish this year. “It was a 2 ½ pound bass,” she said with pride, “so maybe, I’m hoping that earns someone baiting my hook for me.”
With an average of 6-7 teens participating at the summer weekly Monday teen fishing program Highfill is excited to see the kids learning, having fun and growing.
“They are good kids,” she said, “the just want to fish.”
With seven lines in the water at any given time, Schaffner and Highfill have little down time, but both are excited to be doing what they love.
“I’ve got the best job in the world,” said Schaffner, “I get to take youth and vets out fishing, what’s not to like?”
When not fishing with youth or veterans, Schaffner admits “I conduct quite a bit of recon to find the best places to fish.”
While the teen fishing program is a summer program, Casting Vets will continue with fishing throughout the year, even a bit of ice fishing is in the winter plans.