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Officials hope kids get hooked on the outdoors

Parks holding several events this weekend for national fishing week

POSTED: June 12, 2009 12:00 a.m.

Come Saturday at Vogel State Park, the fish will practically be leaping onto the fish hooks, and, organizers hope, luring in some new hobbyists.

Today, as many as 500 rainbow trout will be stocked at Lake Trahlyta, the 22-acre lake that is the centerpiece of the Blairsville park. The preparations come in advance of Saturday’s Kids Fishing Rodeo for children 12 and younger, one of dozens of events across the state marking national fishing week. In Hall County, a fishing rodeo will be held at William’s Mill in Flowery Branch.

Georgia State Parks officials and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service continue to make a push to promote outdoor activities in a time when youth participation is down from previous generations.

A study by the nonprofit Outdoor Federation found an 11 percent decline in outdoor recreation participation among youth age 6 to 17 between 2006 and 2007.

"Hopefully this will be an introduction for some of these kids to a lifelong pastime," said Vogel park manager David Foot. "Many of these youngsters have never held a rod. It’s exciting to see their expressions when they catch their first fish."

Jason Clemmons has seen how a decline in interest in fishing has affected bait sales at his store, Sunrise Grocery, located just two miles from Vogel State Park.

"I would definitely say hunting and fishing is down," said Clemmons, who is donating hundreds of live worms for Saturday’s event. "I don’t think people are getting out as much. There’s too much vegetating going on."

The special events at Georgia parks this weekend "really encourage everyone to get dirty and get fit, as we like to say," said Sally Winchester, a spokeswoman for Georgia State Parks and Historic Sites.

For the novice who isn’t ready to invest money in the sport, the state parks system supplies free fishing equipment, including rods and small tackle boxes, funded through a U.S. Fish and Wildlife sport fish restoration grant. The loaner equipment can be checked out for the day free of charge, though the supply is limited. Vogel has equipment for 10 people but is expecting close to 300 kids on Saturday.

A special "paddle and cast" event at Buck Shoals State Park is also scheduled Saturday, giving folks a rare sneak peek at a state property that has yet to officially open to the public. Buck Shoals, a 543-acre tract along the Chattahoochee River that straddles the White County-Habersham County line, was acquired as part of a state plan to preserve lands along a 180-mile corridor of the Chattahoochee River.

"At some point it is going to be developed into a state park," Winchester said.

At Vogel, one of Georgia’s oldest state parks, there should be plenty of kids getting bites from the lake, Clemmons said.

"They’ll be pulling fish out left and right," he said.



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