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Free fishing program reels Valley families into the great outdoors
TIME: 03:55PM Friday April 01,2011
FROM:The monitor   

In an age when computers, video game consoles and mobile devices have become part of a child’s life, it can be easy for families to stay cooped up inside their homes, never really enjoying the Valley’s warm spring weather. After all, when digital media allows you to hang out with friends, play tennis or join a rock band in the comfort of your own home, why go outside?

Rebecca Gonzalez, a single mother of two, admits she often depends on video games to keep her children occupied.

“As a parent, that’s our babysitter most of the time, to be honest,” Gonzalez said. “To keep them out of trouble you say. ‘OK play that while I run around or cook dinner.’ Sometimes you leave them with their video games when you’re running around doing errands to keep them happy.”

But all of that changed when Gonzales heard about Shane Wilson’s Fishing’s Future program. The La Joya mom learned of a different way to spend quality time with her children. The nonprofit organization aims to bring parents and children together by taking them out of the house and into the great outdoors. Fishing’s Future holds kids fish camps at a variety of Valley fishing spots, where expert anglers teach moms, dads and their little ones the basics of fishing.

“It’s about putting parents back into the lives of children and getting them outside,” Wilson said, a fly fishing world record holder and Fresh Water Fishing Hall of Famer. He was inspired to begin the program after working as an administrator at the Point Isabel Independent School District’s alternative education facility.

“A lot of these kids don’t have the opportunity to get out and do any fishing. They don’t have the parents that have the means or time to get involved in their lives. But Fishing’s Future allows me to reconnect parents with children in a learning capacity and also in nature at an outdoor activity,” Wilson said.

Gonzalez, decided to take advantage of the program by enrolling herself and her 8-year-old son Sebastian in a kids fish camp. She admits they were clueless about the popular sport, but both were hooked after a quick lesson.

“(They) encouraged me to learn a thing or to so I can go out and do things with my two boys,” Gonzalez said. “It helped me to lose that fear of letting my child to get close to the water and that things would be OK. We learned proper fishing techniques, how to do the knots and the throwing of the reel – basic stuff women don’t know.”

And while the program helps unite busy families, it also allows residents to learn more about the environment.

Paul Treviño, president of the Fishing’s Future chapter in McAllen said not only do children have an opportunity to learn how to fish, they also learn about the Valley’s ecology.

“The Valley has a diverse amount of canals throughout the South Texas area. These waters and canals feed off rivers and feed from rivers, so the opportunity for them to fish is there. Whether you’re from La Joya, McAllen, Edinburg, Weslaco, Harlingen, Brownsville or the Island, most parents don’t realize they can do that.” Treviño said.

Treviño said the program also educates families about fishing rules and regulations. He said many Valley residents aren’t aware children don’t need a fishing license to fish.

“There’s a lot of studies that show that kids connected with environment and outdoors do better in school as well,” Trevino said. “We see nowadays, a lot of kids are indoors playing PlayStation or on computers and there’s a missed opportunity to see the wonders of the Valley. We have a really nice eco population of fishing and hunting that many kids don’t participate in.”

Wilson said he started the program in 2004 and filed and was approved for nonprofit status in 2007. He recently expanded the operation to Colorado, where children are learning to fly fish, and is gearing up for a new chapter in Cape Coral, Fla.

“We’ll have about 20 chapters within the state before summer is out and two or three others outside of the state,” Wilson said.

Treviño also underscores the fact that the event is free to all families. Registration on the program’s official website is all that’s required for enrollment.

“It’s not very expensive. You look at a PlayStation and you’re talking $300. You go to Walmart for $30 you have a rod and some basic tackle,” Treviño said. One thing I tell the kids is you can’t eat a video game but you can eat a fish.”

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