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Wildlife Watch: How you can reel in free fishing lessons

Published: Aug. 17, 2021 at 3:27 PM EDT
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BURLINGTON, Vt. (WCAX) - The Vermont Department of Fish and Wildlife is inviting you to learn more about fishing.

Let’s Go Fishing is a program through the Vermont Fish and Wildlife Department where we teach lots of different people lots of different skills associated with getting out and going fishing,” said Ali Thomas, the education manager at Vermont Fish and Wildlife.

The program invites anyone who’s interested to go out and learn for free.

A recent clinic was held at the Intervale Center in Burlington.

“We are really wanting to have this place be very accessible for our community and for this to feel like this land is yours. So we have, along with our trails, we have new outdoor programming to offer experiences for people to live off the land, to learn about the land, to deepen their connection to this land,” said Duncan Murdoch of the Intervale Center.

“We do a combination of talking about the nitty-gritty-- fisheries management, what does the Vermont Fish and Wildlife Department do on the Lower Winooski to manage this ecosystem and keep it healthy. We will also show them the tips and tricks of fishing, tackle, the thing you use, the equipment, the skills associated with just going out and fishing. And understanding the laws and regulations so you can do it safely and legally,” Thomas said.

This clinic focused on the first to live here-- the Abenaki.

“I mean fishing has been around for a long time and it certainly always hasn’t been with the fishing poles I use, so we wanted to bring some more cultural significance and historical significance to the practice,” Thomas said. “I think it always good to know your roots, to know historically who was using this land, how they were using this land. And it’s a way to inform how we can use the land and maybe change or modify how we think about our impact and sustainability practices.”

Aaron Desroches of the Vermont Indigenous Heritage Center was on hand to give a history lesson.

“I’m a volunteer with this organization, I’m not a member of any official tribe. But it’s a very special thing for me to be learning the Abenaki culture, the indigenous people that have been here tens of thousands of years,” Desroches said.

The lessons included historical fishing traps and equipment.

“If you look through, that’s where the eels would swim in and there would be bait on this side-- something smelly that eels like-- and a rock or something closing this end. And it’s really hard for them to get out,” Desroches said. “This kind of falls into the projectile realm; you would throw it, there may have been some lashings so you could throw it. One cool design feature in this is if you look at the angle here. This is done intentionally because light refracts, so when you’re looking at a fish and it’s right here, it’s not where you think it is based on the way the light bends when it hits the water. So this compensates for that.”

But, of course, there are fishing techniques to learn, too. And Thomas says at the end of the day, it’s all about being outside.

“I think any outdoor skills are great to learn. Whether it’s bird watching or breathing deep in the woods or learning to fish or just anything that connects to nature and reminds them as humans we are a part of this ecosystem and we have an impact on it. And we can be as close or disconnected to it as we want to. And the department wants to connect people to nature and create a really healthy ecosystem with humans as part of that. Fishing can certainly be a great way to get local, sustainable food and that’s another reason that I think it’s an important and empowering activity to learn how to do,” Thomas said.

There will be more free fishing clinics held around the state this fall. Click here for all the details.

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