I had the pleasure last Saturday to attend the Saco Valley Trout Unlimited Kids' Fishing Day. The event was held at the Jackson Pond in the center of the Jackson Village. It was a cold, cloudy morning and the attendance was down from last year, but those that did come out had a wonderful time and caught lots of trout.
Saco Valley Trout Unlimited has been hosting the event for several years now. Last year, the event was moved to the Jackson Pond. I don’t think that a better location could be found.
A good many years ago, Jon Howe of the North Country Angler Fly Shop approached the Jackson selectmen to allow the shop to use the location for fly casting classes. The agreement was that the shop would stock the pond with trout and kids under 12 could fish for free. Along with the stocking by the shop, New Hampshire Fish and Game also agreed to stock the pond as well.
When my wife Janet and I purchased the shop, we continued to stock each spring and the tradition has carried over to the present owner, Steve Angers. Over the years a lot of folks have learned to fly cast at the pond and a lot of local kids have caught their first trout at the pond, too.
This year, like every year, there were a lot of proud grandfathers at the event accompanied by their grandsons and granddaughters. There were some moms and dads as well, but they were outnumbered by far by grandpops.
For the most part, worm fishing was the preferred method of angling. However, as the morning wore on, a few fly rods were broken out, and a couple of kids had the experience of catching their first trout on a fly rod. There were a lot of smiles going around.
Recently, Trout Unlimited and our local chapter has taken some heat for hosting these kind of events. To some purists, it goes against the stated mission of the organization. Trout Unlimited is a conservation organization and not a fishing club. These critics say that these events take away from the message of the organization. In addition, local chapters, who stock ponds for kids' days go against the national organization’s policy of non-stocking.
Well, they may have a valid point, but I personally think that these events do a lot more good than harm. First and foremost, these events bring chapters together and members turn out to volunteer their time. Second, and even more important, these events create new fishermen and just maybe future members of our organization. And because some of these future anglers will become ardent conservationists they will continue the fight to preserve our cold water fisheries.
As for stocking, again they may have a point. Because of the heat generated by these critics, the chapter has divorced itself from funding the stocking and the money comes from private funds and not Trout Unlimited. Which, as the critics will point out, is a moot point, as most of the funds still come from chapter members.
The naysayers are of the opinion that some of the trout stocked in the pond may escape into the nearby Wildcat River and harm wild trout that inhabit this section of the river. This is indeed a possibility because bullhead from the pond have found their way into the stream.
However, New Hampshire Fish and Game stocks the Wildcat below the falls and it is doubtful that a few escapees from the pond would do any more harm than the hatchery trout already placed there by Fish and Game.
Like everything in this country, trout fishing has become politicized by the extremes, and there is no room for compromise. Fishing is supposed to be about having fun, sadly sometimes we just take it too seriously. Last week’s Kid’s Day was just that, a whole lot of fun.
See you on the river.