Organizers of the 11th annual Algonquin Park Family Fishing Day are gearing up to take roughly 160 kids fishing for rock bass on July 6.
Running from 9 A.M to 2:30 P.M. on Whitefish Lake, and scheduled to tie in with the start of National Fishing Week, the event is open to any child under the age of 18 who’s staying at the park that weekend. While some of the participants come from as far away as Europe, the majority are from the Greater Toronto Area, says the founder of the event, Kevin Hein.
Now retired from his job as Support Services Leader with Ontario Parks, Hein says he started the event as a tribute to Rick Amsbury, the late Executive Director of the Canadian National Sportfishing Foundation. Amsbury is well known for his work promoting the sport of fishing with kids.
On the morning of the event, the young anglers are registered then Conservation and OPP officers and members of the Rock Lake Cottagers Association take them out in boats to fish. “Many of these children have not even been in a boat, so the boat ride itself is something that they will remember,” Hein says.
Participants can borrow rods and tackle through the Ontario Federation of Anglers and Hunters’ tackle share program available in the park, but it’s even better if they show up with their own gear and lifejackets, Hein says.
“There’s also a conservation side to this event,” he says. “We target rock bass, which is an invasive species. I feel if I turn 500 people on to fishing rock bass every year in the park, we will reduce the numbers and help the trout population.”
In the week leading up to the event, he and local legend Frank Kuiack catch up to 80 pounds of rock bass, which organizers use to feed up to 500 people for lunch. All the fish that the kids catch are added to the overall pot, too. "We teach people how to catch, clean and cook this delicacy," Hein says. “They’re almost as good as perch, they’re very sweet. They’re an excellent eating fish.”
Along with the fish fry, all the young anglers get a goodie bag filled with donated lures and fishing accessories. As well, every child's name is put into a draw for bigger prizes, also donated by some of the major fishing tackle makers.
For more information on the Family Fishing Day click here or call (705) 633-5572. While the event is often at capacity for anglers, Hein says that organizers are always looking for more boat owners interested in introducing young people and their families to fishing.