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Fishing camp looks to reel in youngsters |

Fishing camp looks to reel in youngsters

| Saturday, July 14, 2012 8:59 p.m
Matthew Schultz, 15, fishes along the Allegheny River in Verona on Thursday evening, July 12, 2012. Schultz will be one of the main mentors at the Steel City Rowing Club's fishing camp that will run from July 30-August 3 and is open to teens ages 12 to 14. Justin Merriman | Tribune-Review

Kids and fishing go together as well today as they always have.

Sometimes these days, though, is takes a little something extra to bring them together. That’s where the Steel City Rowing Club’s WildLife fishing camp comes in.

It’s a weeklong day camp making its debut July 30 to Aug. 3, with the idea of growing fishing while teaching boys and girls ages 12 to 14 about angling basics, canoeing and kayaking and conservation.

The Verona rowing club, which began as a high-performance center for world-class athletes to train, decided 15 years ago to begin offering paddling classes as a way to reach a broader audience, said executive director Dori Tompa.

“Whenever we did those, the kids were always asking if they could fish, so this was a natural next step,” Tompa said.

“And it’s what we believe in. If kids enjoy the water and the world around them, they’ll protect it. They become stewards of the environment.”

This particular camp will feature some high-profile instructors.

Jeff Blood, the steelhead guide and originator of the blood dot fly, will be on hand to teach fishing skills. Fifteen-year-old Matthew Schultz, an Apollo-Ridge student and recent graduate of the Wildlife Leadership Academy school — which teaches teens to be ambassadors for conservation — will serve as a mentor. John Arway, executive director of the Pennsylvania Fish and Boat Commission, will discuss boating safety and help lead fishing trips on the Allegheny River.

“I’m going to go out on the river with the kids and hopefully they can teach me a few tricks. It should be a fun time,” he said.

Participants will get their own life jackets to keep on Monday, courtesy of Pittsburgh Chapter Safari Club International. They’ll also get fishing rods from Schultz’s Sportsman’s Stop in Apollo.

Twice during the Monday through Friday camp they’ll paddle to an island in the Allegheny River to fish and eat lunch. On another day they’ll visit Apollo Spring Church Sportsmen’s Club to do some pond fishing and outdoor exploring, and on another they’ll learn to row, do some water quality testing and learn to tie flies and fly fish.

Robb Rusiewicz, a board member at the rowing club and president of the Pittsburgh Sportsmen’s Luncheon Club, said the hope for the camp is twofold: that kids will have fun immediately and that they’ll learn to love fishing long term.

“Research shows that a lot of kids want to fish, they want to do it. They just don’t know how to do it,” Rusiewicz said. “This is a way for us to introduce fishing and boating to them.

“Just being out on the water, it’s very therapeutic. Hopefully, we can introduce that to the kids and build some interest there and knowledge where there wasn’t any before.”

Data shows that kids fish most often and longer term when their entire families are involved, Arway said. This camp might spark that, Rusiewicz said.

“We’ve got to get them hooked on fishing so that they can get their parents to take them” he said.

There’s no better place for kids to learn about fishing and paddling and the environment than Pittsburgh, said Tompa. The city’s rivers have made such a dramatic turnaround — going from flowing filth to systems rich in wildlife — that they are the perfect classroom. The class will showcase all of that.

“It’s a really wonderful opportunity. I wish I had these opportunities when I was that age,” Tompa said.

Bob Frye is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at or 724-838-5148.

Categories: Outdoors
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