Local fishing program reels in next cast of young anglers

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LISA XU

Darren Young grew up with a passion for fishing thanks to his father, who took him fishing and camping every summer as a child. He recalled the quietness of being out on the water at dawn, the frogs, and the mist coming off the water.

Darren Young, founder of the Next Cast Youth Fishing Program, flips through his binder of resources for the youth fishing program, including the slides he uses to teach the group of 20 youth about the basics of fishing. (Lisa Xu/For The Whig-Standard) Ian MacAlpine / Lisa Xu/Kingston Whig-Standard/Postmedia Network

“You’re out there, it’s just you … it’s just peaceful, relaxing, fun,” he said.

Now, he’s passing on that passion to the next generation of anglers through his Next Cast Youth Fishing Program, which is entering its third year.

Every spring, Young takes six weeks to teach the basics of fishing to a group of 20 local youth ages 10 to 13. And it doesn’t cost the children anything, except two hours of class every week. Young said he wanted to give opportunities to kids who don’t have the equipment, financial means, or someone to share the common interest with.

Fishing is part of the Kingston lifestyle, thanks to its numerous nearby bodies of water. Offering a free fishing program is a way of giving back to the community, he said.

“It’s big right now, getting kids in fishing. Technology has taken them away from it. Getting them out of the house, getting them off the couch, off the devices, that’s kind of a goal,” said Young, a graphic designer and former youth basketball coach.

He teaches the young anglers-to-be about different types of fishing equipment and techniques, while also stressing the importance of ethical fishing and environmental conscientiousness.

The youth learn practical skills and they get to enjoy the social aspect of the sport by making new friends. He said he sees the growth in the group of youth from being shy in Week 1 to becoming a tight-knit group by the end.

All of the classes lead up to a bass fishing tournament, where the youth get to fish in pairs on a local lake and apply their skills.

“Their reactions are fantastic. I can hear the boater laughing and the kids laughing from across the lake. They’re having a great time.” he recalled. “They got them out in the boat and they’re in a totally different world, a different mindset. It’s just a chance to escape a little bit I guess.”

After the program ends, the kids often bring the joy of fishing back to friends and family.

“The effects are positive and visible,” Young said.

He passed on his love of fishing to his four children, who grew up doing the activity.

“I know what it does for my kids. I know what it did for me,” he said.

This also inspired him to share the joys of fishing with other youth.

“It’s that next generation. Those are the ones that are going to keep it going,” he said. “If we lose them now, then the whole thing is just going to die off.”

Young said the most memorable moment of running the program was receiving a letter of thanks from one of the youth’s mother, who talked about how the program helped her son, who has autism, open up to trying new things.

“To see the impact of that boy and what his mother saw, that’s what did it,” Young said. “That’s what sold me on making it happen, keeping it going, doing it the best I can.”

This year, he was able to find 30 sponsors for the program, including local businesses and an American professional angler.

Next spring, he said, he’s planning to create a second program in the Napanee community.

“If it inspires somebody else to start something up similar, or even take one kid fishing … that’s a success,” Young said.