As part of designation, DNR will stock Lions Pond with fish
JANESVILLE Give a man a fish, and he can feed himself for a day. Teach a kid to fish, and he or she can tell fish stories for a lifetime.
That’s the basic idea behind the Department of Natural Resources’ Urban Fishing Program.
The program aims to increase access to the sport for youth and disabled individuals through a special restricted fishing season and educational clinics hosted around the state at urban fishing areas. Sixty bodies of water are participating in the program, most in the southeastern region of the state.
Lions Park in Janesville was recently voted in as one of the newest additions, meaning the waters along Lions Beach will be restricted to under-15 youth and disabled fishermen for six weeks from mid-March to early May in 2014. Lions Park will be the first urban fishing area in Rock County.
The designation also means the DNR will begin stocking the pond with trout come next March. The pond will be open to all anglers for the rest of the year-long fishing season.
Matt Coffaro, state coordinator for the program, said it takes nearly 300 volunteers to hold the annual fishing clinics, which are entering their 30th year.
Although cold weather on this year’s date made for a more limited turnout than in years past, just fewer than 1,000 children were able to get out on the water for hands-on lessons on the basics of fishing.
He added that the program touches the lives of kids who would not otherwise have the opportunity to go fishing.
“There (are) some kids where you can see the excitement when they catch their first fish. It’s genuinely satisfying to see that,” said Coffaro, a DNR urban fisheries biologist.
Janesville Parks Director Tom Presny said the response from the Janesville Noon Lions Club and the Rotary Botanical Gardens, two partners in upkeep for the pond, has been positive. Presny, however, said many of the details about how improvement projects for the area will take shape are not finalized. The parks department is soliciting public comment and input on the project ahead of the 2014 season.
Presny hopes the improvements can include a handicapped-accessible fishing pier and said he believes the program will have a positive impact on the community.
“We have a community of 63,000 residents and a very unique facility with our bodies of water within the city,” he said. “It’s a unique opportunity for children and the disabled.”
Although there are no plans for fishing clinics at Lions Pond in 2014, Ron Gray, a longtime volunteer and DNR-certified fishing instructor, said any interested fishing club could reach out to the program to form a partnership to run a training day.