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April 22, 2009 > Free fishing fun

Free fishing fun

By Meenu Gupta
Photos By Courtesy of Heidi McFarland

Spring has arrived, and April weekends are good for free fishing fun. The Fishing Clinics are for kids between the ages of 5 and 15. The event runs from 8 a.m. until approximately 11:30 a.m. with the clinic itself taking place from 8 a.m. until 10 a.m. Arrive between 8 a.m. - 10 a.m. to register and participate.

"We do have a limit of 150 kids, on a first come first served basis, but we rarely ever have to turn people away" said Heidi McFarland, Santa Clara County Parks & Recreation, Parks Volunteer Program Coordinator. They do not offer pre-registration. Registration is done at the beginning of the clinic.

The event is free, but you will have to pay for parking. Parking costs $6 per car. We provide all of the equipment needed for fishing- and the kids even get a tackle box to keep. Please do not bring your own equipment from home. "We do ask to hold on to your driver's license in exchange for up to 2 fishing rods. When the kids are done fishing we trade back" said McFarland.

"The majority of our volunteers, approximately 35-40 of the 60+, are what we call 'SBFIC Core Volunteers' and they come to all of our community events, and have for almost 15 years" said McFarland. "Next year marks our 15th anniversary. Some are new within the past few years but many have been with us since the beginning in 1995."
These volunteers are avid fishermen and women, and help to train the younger high school club volunteers that help as fishing buddies, knot tying instructors or casting assistants.

The volunteers show up at 7 a.m. the morning of the fishing event. They need not have any previous experience as they get training on the spot before the start of the event. Breakfast and lunch is provided to all the volunteers that come out to help. "We will have a cleaning station available, staffed by volunteers" said McFarland. Volunteers are encouraged to enroll for the May 16 event at Lake Cunningham.

Participants go through a full interactive clinic that consists of several stations: Registration/Pole distribution, Safety and Ethics, Watershed Education which includes environmental awareness and respect for our waterways, Knot Tying, Casting, Rigging & Bait station. They are given a free tackle box with extra supplies to keep for future fishing adventures.

"The clinic consists of about 6 stations where we teach the kids everything from the safety and ethics of fishing, to pollution, how to tie a fishing knot, how to cast," said McFarland.

The Watershed Education station is really the station that brings home the message about caring for our environment. Brochures are available for the parents, provided by the Santa Clara Valley Water District, that educate the public on our responsibilities towards the environment.

"We take groups of about 10 kids or so at a time through the clinic, and it usually takes about a half-an-hour or 45 minutes to go through. After going through the clinic the kids are welcome to fish until 11:30 and we wrap up the event by noon" said McFarland.

The staff nets off a portion of the lake and stock it with extra fish so that the kids have a higher chance of catching fish. With over 50 volunteers stationed at the clinic along the shoreline to help the kids there and several more who will clean the fish that the kids catch, this event would not be possible without the help of the dedicated volunteers.

The event is family oriented. Parents can learn to fish right alongside their kids in the clinic, in addition to helping them get the most out of it. Though all kids should have parental supervision, once at the shore they should let the kids do the fishing. "Parents can help the kids out if they have any problems - but we do require the kids to be the ones casting, reeling in" said McFarland.

Participants are welcome to bring snacks and/or lunch and stay for a picnic after the event. "Kids don't have to know fishing beforehand, we teach kids how to cast, how to tie a sinker onto the line, and how to keep local waterways clean. Parents also go through clinic and assist kids but they do not fish" said Doug Colbeck - City of San Jose, Park Ranger.

South Bay Fishing in the City creates opportunities for fishing, outdoor recreation, and aquatic education for kids and their families. So take the rod and the bait and try your luck with fishing. For more information, please contact Heidi McFarland at (408) 355-2254 or

South Bay Fishing in the City
Sunday, April 26
8 a.m. - 11:30 p.m.
Ed Levin Park
3100 Calaveras Road, Milpitas
(408) 262-6980

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