ORLANDO, Fla. — Ron Misch has been captaining Sun Tracker pontoon boats for so long at Walt Disney World Parks and Resorts that he remembers a time when he could hold small children on his lap and let them navigate the calm waters.
Today, Misch says 17- and 18-year-olds regularly ask that he be their excursion captain to see the nightly fireworks that Disney is known for and they tell him, “Ron, that was the first time I ever steered a boat. I’ll never forget that.”
Misch says he has never had a person get off one of his boats angry and that seems plausible.
As a Disney “cast member” for 15 years, Misch has operated one of the six Sun Trackers at Lake Buena Vista at Disney’s Beach and Yacht Club Resort, taking family after family on an excursion and often their first boat ride.
“I’m one of the old-timers,” he said.
There are about 250 recreational boats — many of them Brunswick boats and engines because of a partnership with Disney. Many of the park’s Sun Trackers are powered with 50-hp Mercury engines, although some have 55-hp models.”
Those boats are now being used in various ways to facilitate the partnership between Disney and Take Me Fishing.
Take Me Fishing sponsored a media trip on Thursday to introduce press members to the excursions specifically with the Take Me Fishing branding — one just fishing, one just boating and another combining the two.
“We’re creating an authentic experience where families share at the basic level,” Disney alliance management marketing manager Stacia Wake said. “Mom can share her first time out on the water when she caught a fish as her child catches his or her first fish.”
First up was pole fishing at Disney’s Fort Wilderness Resort. The dockside old-fashioned fishing trip’s cast member explained the best way to bait a hook with Take Me Fishing-branded worms while offering to do it for those who were squeamish.
Several families lined up along the pier to drop hooks in, some of whom were taking kids fishing for the first time.
After that, the team headed to the Sea Raycers — two-person, self-driven boats that guests can rent for $32 a half hour in various areas of the park. Children 12 and older can zip around the parks independently, although the maximum speed is 5 to 7 mph and someone dedicated to ensuring everyone is safe follows unobtrusively in a Boston Whaler (which are also for rent in various parts of the park).
The final bit was the bass-fishing excursion, which yielded at least one fish caught per participant.
Recent catch rate surveys showed that the average rate per person, per hour, was between 1.6 and 2.5 fish.
Allyson Atkins, an education manager for Disney’s animals, science and environmental endeavors, said the park is always trying to find ways to best utilize its assets to promote the outdoors and conservation efforts, but not in a preachy way.
“It’s not new. We’re just putting it under a different umbrella,” Atkins said. “We want to get kids outside because then studies show we have healthier kids, more creative kids and less childhood obesity. The more connected they are to nature, the more interested in conservation, and then going home and getting connected with nature. Who goes home and does more on their own? If we can get them to do that, then we feel like we’ve won.”
This article was updated to clarify the fleet of boats used at Disney.