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Kids, crabbing and a white marlin necropsy

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My son and I spent the last two evenings scurrying around a dock, carrying a long-handled net and wearing headlamps as we checked lines baited with chicken legs. We were crabbing in the waning days of summer. And, yes, these were school nights for my seventh-grader, too.

But there will be plenty of time for school, and, besides, the crabs and the season will be gone in a couple of blinks. I grab any opportunity I can to get my kids on or around the water and out from behind a computer or other indoor distraction. We all know the importance of young people to the long-term health of our industry. Anything we can do individually or as an industry to get a net, fishing rod, tiller or wheel into the hands of a young person is a good thing.

To that point, I want to give a shout out to the first Youth Fishing Camp organized by the New Jersey Audubon Nature Center of Cape May, N.J. The weeklong day camp, held in late August, attracted 30 kids (with others on a waiting list) and a number of marine and tackle sponsors.

“These kids are the future of recreational fishing,” Nature Center director Gretchen Whitman says in a statement. “Without new, young fishing enthusiasts, the sport will wither.”

The highlights of the week included a family fishing trip on the party boat Cape May Lady and a field trip to the Canyon Club Resort Marina in Cape May, one of the hosts of the Mid-Atlantic $500,000 marlin tournament.

There the children got to watch John Graves, of the Virginia Institute of Marine Sciences, conduct a necropsy on a white marlin caught in the tournament, according to Mark Allen, who works at the marina as the tournament coordinator and promoter and boat show manager.

“That was a hoot,” Allen told me yesterday. “They loved it.”

Allen, I think, speaks for many of us when he talks about what young people mean for boating and fishing.

“The kids are everything,” he says. “You have to grow. The economy is thinning people out. Old age is thinning people out. You have to get that enthusiasm. Kids are the future of fishing.”

The pragmatic side of Allen notes, “It’s business. We sell boats and fishing tournaments. Without the kids coming in …”

The fishing camp has a nice back story, too. The pilot project by the Nature Center was funded in large part by the McKinnon Family Foundation in memory of Coast Guard Cmdr. Guy Hill Buckelew, who was a passionate fisherman.

The lead instructor for the week was Norm Smith, a retired teacher, former lifeguard and boat captain who Allen calls a “waterman extraordinaire and a great guy.”

“Norm really taught them about life, too,” says Allen. “He told them that life is a lot like fishing. It’s all about the three Ps: preparation, practice and patience. If you learn those, you’ll probably be successful in life, too. Norm is a big guy. He’s hard not to listen to.”

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