KENNETT, Mo. – More than 600 people converged on Jerry P. Combs Lake near Kennett recently to participate in the 16th annual Missouri Bootheel Regional Consortium (MBRC) Inc. Fishing Clinic, which is the largest annual fishing event in the Bootheel. The fishing clinic is a cooperative event hosted by the MBRC and the Missouri Department of Conservation (MDC).
The purpose of the event, which is part of MBRC's Fathers First Initiative, is to engage fathers and children in outdoor activities together in an environment where they can learn with equipment provided. In addition to fishing, parents and children enjoyed an archery activity led by representatives from the National Wild Turkey Federation, fish identification, boat rides, and fur identification led by representatives of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.
"We had a high turnout and the fish were biting," said Eric Heuring, an MDC conservation agent and MDC's coordinator of the event.
Heuring has coordinated MDC's portion of the event for nine years. He said watching children experience nature, sometimes for the first time, never gets old.
"The highlight of this event is always witnessing the children have a great time catching fish, getting a bull's-eye and going on the boat rides. For many, this was all a first time experience with these activities," he said.
Heuring said for MDC, this event is part of a mission to help people discover nature. He said the hope is that after experiencing these outdoor activities for the first time at an event, parents and children will incorporate things like fishing, archery and general outdoor time into their regular routines.
Cynthia Dean, CEO of MBRC, said the Fatherhood First program was initiated in 1998 in order to assist fathers in maintaining positive relationships with their children and families. She said the fishing clinic helps support local interventions and services to assist fathers in overcoming barriers to responsible fatherhood.
"MBRC is committed to continuing this important community event to emphasize the importance of male involvement in the lives of their children and families," Dean said.
Heuring agreed that seeing fathers and their children fish together at this event is representative of the rich cultural tradition of sharing the outdoors with family and friends.
"Fishing, like anything else, is only improved when enjoyed with your family," he said.
For more information on places to fish in Missouri, use the conservation atlas at mdc.mo.gov.