by Tom Chillemi
Middlesex County is nearly surrounded by water, but many local children have never fished from a boat or even been in a boat on the water.
The Coastal Conservation Association (CCA) fixed that for 19 such children on Saturday when it took them on a fishing adventure aboard a charter boat.
The CCA trip was a cooperative effort by several local individuals and organizations, including the Middlesex Department of Social Services and its “Partners in Progress,” a group that combines the efforts of several civic organizations.
For these kids, Saturday’s fishing trip was a special treat, said Robin Wells, a CCA organizer. “The majority of them had never been fishing from a boat or even been on a boat,” said Wells. “It was very heartwarming when they loaded on the bus and were waving and cheering saying ‘thank you.’ The teen I sponsored gave me a great big hug.”
The kids, ages 10-16, enjoyed seeing different species of fish that were caught, including a small shark. Michael Parker almost landed that shark. It hit on a spot that was on his line. “It pulled hard,” he said.
The shark let go of Parker’s line and bit on Dylan Wells’ line that had a small spot on it for bait. The 25-inch shark wasn’t a trophy and was released, but it was the biggest fish of the day, earning Dylan a prize of a new tackle box.
The trip combined fun with lessons on conservation, said Robin Wells. “It’s great to catch fish, but only take home what you need,” he said. “I didn’t hear a kid complain about throwing little fish back.”
Alistir Barclay caught 3 keepers and threw back 11 on his first fishing trip on a boat.
Michael Veney caught 3 fish on his very first time fishing. “One had big teeth,” he said.
Chaperone Caroline Ward said that when an ugly mud toad was caught “half the boat started screaming . . . I thought someone had caught a big fish. These are some really good kids. They were fishing their hearts out.”
In all, about 140 fish were kept and each kid got a bag of fish filets to take home. Each of the kids also got a captain’s bag and a nice rod-and-reel.
The weather was perfect, even the tide cooperated—almost. Captain Bubbie Crown needed to move passengers to the bow of his 57-foot charter boat “Tortuga” so it could make it the last 10 feet to the shallow dock at Deltaville Maritime Museum.
Captain Crown said it was especially gratifying helping kids from the community. “It’s good to see local kids out catching fish and having fun,” he said. “I’m happy to be part of the event.”
The young anglers got a short lesson on ecology and preservation of the water. After lunch, CCA president Kevin Smith gave a brief talk on how actions on land can affect the water, such as litter that can find its way into the water where it can kill fish.
This is the first year for the CCA fishing trip. “We hope to make this an annual event with even more Middlesex kids participating,” said Angie Beachy, director of the Middlesex Department of Social Services. “The smiles on their faces told me they had a good time.”
Several sponsors helped make the CCA fishing adventure a success. They included Hurd’s Hardware, Infilco-Degremont, Deltaville Yachting Center, Middlesex Partners in Progress, Deltaville NAPA, West Marine, Queen’s Creek Outfitters, Bella’s Pizza, J&W Seafood, Fish On Bait and Tackle, and Greentop Sporting Goods.
Lunch was served at the Deltaville Maritime Museum, courtesy of Moo’s Dock-N-Dine and Norview Marina. Merryvale Produce provided watermelon.
Along with the CCA, the major co-sponsor of the event was the Wish A Fish Foundation.
Onboard snacks were provided by an anonymous donor.