The ODNR Division of Wildlife District 5 office, Xenia, recently took on a project to turn some underutilized ponds into a great place to learn to fish. The ponds, which were originally part of the fish hatchery that once operated on the property, are nestled behind the office building. Located on the north edge of Xenia, the property is back a long lane and is an oasis of wildlife and nature. Making more use of the spring fed ponds made sense so the staff invested a lot of effort, and a small amount of money. Based on the youngsters fishing there when I recently visited the program, it was indeed a wise investment.
Kathy Garza-Behr, District 5 Wildlife Communications Specialist, explains, “We looked at what can be utilized for the public, make it better and supply it. We have the ponds here that were used for fisheries management in the past. Wildlife District 3 office has ponds at their facility. We’ve done various programs that did use the ponds in the past, such as Passport to Fishing, fly tying and instructor training. We thought the already stocked ponds could be used for expanded fishing opportunities,”
She continues, “The fishing program is open Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday 8-10AM, 10- noon and 3- 5PM so there are 3 sessions each open day with 6 participants at each session. Reservations are required in advance. We provide the bait, the fishing poles and terminal tackle, as well as, instruction for first time or beginning anglers. This program is available to the public through those who buy the fishing licenses and equipment. The equipment is provided by for use at the program only. The activity is open until Labor Day this year.”
One reason for the successful startup is the hard work cleaning the area and getting everything ready is Jordan Johnson, the summer seasonal worker. Johnson, from Germantown, is no stranger to hard work having grown up on a farm. She graduated from Valley View High School, where she was a leader in the FFA program serving as Secretary, Vice-President and President and also showed hogs. So getting her hands dirty with a few worms and keeping the youngsters fishing is no problem. Johnson, who clearly enjoys working with the kids, noted, “I started earlier this spring. I’ve worked a lot with the fishing project. The kids all make it worth the effort here. I really enjoy helping and watching them. A lot of times you get some that don’t want to touch the worms or the fish, but when they see me or the other kids doing it they all want to try. I love it when the kids can learn to do everything. They really get into it and see what it’s all about. The feedback from the parents has been very positive.”
The program has a few simple rules. Participants must be under 16 so they can fish without a license. Participants may keep one fish to take home and the Division personnel will put it on ice for them. They can continue to fish for the remainder of the two-hour period but it is catch and release. Gravel has been installed for a pathway to the ponds which will allow vehicle access to accommodate anyone with special needs. Garza-Behr adds, “We continue to remove more growth for access along one shore of the pond. The aerators have arrived and the electric is now connected. This will provide aquatic improvements to control weeds and algae growth. A water line has been installed so that future demonstrations may include fish cleaning.”
These are quality cold spring feed ponds stocked with trout, hybrid bluegill and bass. Many are beautiful nice sized fish. It is all about outreach and opportunity to get the young people, or other new fishermen, the opportunity to learn more about fishing. It was extremely enjoyable to watch the youngsters as they learn. It is especially fun to watch the smiles when they land that first fish. Sometimes it is squeals of delight at catching a fish, or perhaps a little bit anxious when they touch the first fish. The young people are learning a whole lot about fishing and enjoying the outdoors. They are learning the correct way to start fishing. Hopefully this will start them along a life-long journey fishing and enjoying the great outdoors