March 27, 2019

Clockwise from above left, fishing guides Steve Thomas and Xavier Figueredo presented trophies to Bodie Billips and the participants. Youngsters received a free T-shirt and other items. Participants were guided through the art of fly tying. Casting lessons were part of the program.
Contributed

Clockwise from above left, fishing guides Steve Thomas and Xavier Figueredo presented trophies to Bodie Billips and the participants. Youngsters received a free T-shirt and other items. Participants were guided through the art of fly tying. Casting lessons were part of the program. Contributed

ISLAMORADA — Young anglers reeled in a master class in Florida Keys fishing at the Kids Day Fishing Seminar, held March 17 at Founders Park on Plantation Key.

“About 75 kids, ages 3 to 16, learned from the best,” said Steve Friedman, commodore of the host Florida Keys Fishing Guides Association. “Our guides helped them learn the right way to do it, and why we do it that way.”

Expert fishing guides and instructors volunteered to offer hands-on experience and tips for sport essentials like spin and fly casting, tying flies, casting a bait net and even poling a flats skiff.

Joan Wulff, a part-time Keys resident ranked as one of the most accurate casters ever in women’s fly-fishing history, joined the professionals helping teach kids the basics.

Wulff, holder of numerous world records and author of classic fishing guides, is 92 years old.

“Joan is a living legend who still cares deeply about fishing and kids,” Friedman said. “It was a tremendous honor for us to have her there. She’s an example for us all.”

About 15 local guides shared their skills and knowledge, along with support from family members and community volunteers.

At the end of the free four-hour event, dozens of age-group trophies were handled out to the young participants for showing prowess in skills like line casting and throwing a good “pancake” net toss.

“Seeing the smiles on the kids’ faces when they got their trophies was the best,” said Upper Keys guide Steve Thomas, who coordinated the event along with guides Xavier Figueredo and Drew Moret.

Richard Black and Moret are among local fishing professionals who attended a similar event several years ago as young anglers.

“We wanted to revive the kids seminar because of the incredible support the community has shown to us as fishing guides, especially in the aftermath of Hurricane Irma,” Friedman said. “It’s our way of trying to give something back.”

“The guides came together and gave up a day of fishing when they could have been out making money. That was very cool to see,” Thomas said. “The day went even better than we expected.”

“Every kid went home with a fishing rod, a shirt and other little goodies,” Friedman said. “Our main goal was getting kids interested in fishing, maybe even turning it into a career. I think we did the job.”

Guides in the 63-year-old association already are looking forward to the next kids’ seminar, he said.

Centennial Bank sponsored free hot dogs, hamburgers and drinks. The Florida Bay Forever conservation group and the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission set up information booths.

Adults could bid on donated fishing trips, with proceeds going to new Florida Keys Fishing Guides Foundation, a nonprofit program to assist guides in times of need.

For more information, visit fkfga.org or the Florida Keys Fishing Guides Association page on Facebook.

kwadlow@keysnews.com