A group of Cub Scouts recently learned to be SMART anglers.
At the end of April, Cub Scouts from Pack 13 from North Warren, Pack 782 from Warren, and Pack 30 from Youngsville, went for some lessons at Chapman State Park.
Jen Moore, Chapman's environmental education specialist, helped them learn to fish safely, clean up after themselves and others, and respect the fish.
The SMART acronym represents: Safety, Manners, Appreciate clean water, Release your catch, and Teach others.
The scouts were encouraged to be safe fishermen by securing their hooks while carrying their equipment and making sure they had enough space to cast. To check their spacing, each scout held his fishing pole extended outward from his chest and turned a full circle.
Manners and Appreciating clean water were parts of the exercise throughout.
"The conservation project started with a discussion on the importance of shoreline cleanup," Moore said. "The boys came up with good reasons for why we should clean up the shoreline: so the fish don't die by eating garbage,' 'the fishing line can get stuck around other animals like birds and cause them to lose a leg or even die,' and 'the chemicals will kill the fish'."
"The boys grabbed garbage bags and gloves and walked the shoreline," Moore said. "They counted the pieces of garbage they had collected... the most turned out to be 21."
They collected discarded fishing line among the garbage items. That material went to the park's fishing line recycling center and will eventually be used to make tackle boxes, she said.
Moore encouraged the scouts to release fish they will not eat "so others have fish to catch."
When a scout asked if he could take a fish from the lake and put it in an aquarium at home, Moore asked the scouts for ideas why that might not be a good idea.
"They came up with 'the water in the aquarium isn't the same as the water in the lake and the fish could die,'" she said. "I asked them if they would like to be removed from their home and they all said, 'NO!'. I told them it would be the same thing for the animals."
After practicing casting and baiting their hooks with night crawlers and salmon eggs, the scouts got a chance at the real thing. "No one caught a fish, but they had fun trying," Moore said.