MDC commissioner hosts annual fishing clinic for Ferguson kids in Pike County

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Saint Louis
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BOWLING GREEN, Mo. — For a lot of people, a big part of fishing is getting away from it all20 kids from Ferguson got a chance to experience a great getaway last Saturday when Missouri Department of Conservation (MDC) Commissioner James T. Blair IV hosted the group at his farm in Pike County near Bowling Green. 

The young anglers were members of the Ferguson Strength and Honor Mentoring and Tutoring Program (SAHMT).  The event was part of the annual Ferguson Youth Fishing Clinic, put on by St. Louis region conservation agents.  Previously, the event had been held at MDC’s Bellefontaine Conservation Area in north St. Louis County.  Thanks to Commissioner Blair’s invitation, this year’s change of venue allowed the group to get a taste of fishing in a more rural setting.  The farm is approximately an hour’s drive north of St. Louis.

SAHMT is the brainchild of Ferguson-Florissant School District Science Teacher Albert Harrold.  His goal in starting the program was to help make a change in struggling communities by instilling core values important in helping children become effective adults.  SAHMT provides positive activities and mentoring experiences that encourage its members to better themselves.

MDC partnering with SAHMT seemed to go together like sinkers and boppers to Conservation Agent Lexis Riter, who has been instrumental in organizing the event. 

“These kids deserve a fun day of fishing and discovering nature while having a chance to connect in a positive way with conservation agents,” she said.

With comfortably-warm temperatures in the lower and mid 80’s and a mix of clouds and sunshine mellowed by a calming breeze, the fish seemed anxious to bite.  The young anglers caught fish after fish, reeling in a selection of crappie, bluegill, and even a few scale-tipping catfish.

MDC provided the fishing equipment and conservation agents assisted the kids with less glamourous but important tasks of baiting worms and pulling fish off hooks.  Blair and his wife, Anna, also joined the kids fishing, entertaining them with the retrieving antics of their dogs Lulu and Rocco.

When the fishing was done, conservation agents threw a fish fry, cooking up mounds of fish and french fries for everyone to enjoy before the group set out to return to St. Louis. 

At the end of the day, Riter reflected on the experience. 

“I was watching one of the girls pull another fish out of the lake and thought to myself these children are the future of conservation.  Seeing their passion for the outdoors renews mine,” she said.

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