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MDC helps kids catch fish during Hyde Park father-son campout

St. LOUIS, Mo.—The legacy of a passionate teenager and 400 fish stocked by the Missouri Department of Conservation (MDC) helped make the day for more than 40 kids at Hyde Park in the City of St. Louis on June 18.

It was part of the annual Communities First Father-Son Camping in the Park Night that took place Friday and Saturday, June 17-18 to celebrate both Fathers’ Day and the Juneteenth holiday.  The aim of the event is to help encourage father and son bonding, and nurture interest in the outdoors and camping among urban kids who don’t often have the chance to experience nature.

A highlight on Saturday was a Father and son fishing event.  MDC stocked 100 channel catfish and approximately 300 hybrid sunfish in Hyde Park’s lake.  The St. Louis City Parks Department completed repairs to the lake that made the stocking possible.

MDC St. Louis Regional Administrator Julianne Stone and MDC Fisheries Management Biologist John Schulte worked with the children to demonstrate how to bait hooks, tie fishing knots, and cast a rod and reel.  City of St. Louis 3rd Ward Alderman Brandon Bosley spent the entire morning working with the kids, and several St. Louis City police officers also stopped by to lend a hand. 

The Father and son fishing event was supported by Nathan’s Catch, a charitable fund set up through the Missouri Conservation Heritage Foundation to help families connect to nature through fishing.  The organization donated 50 rods and reels that the kids who participated were allowed to take home.  Nathan’s Catch was created to honor a Kansas City-area student who was killed at 18 in an automobile accident in 2016. 

Nathan was passionate about the outdoors, and especially fishing.  In the past three years, Nathan’s Catch has also donated more than 430 fishing poles and 250 tackle boxes in Nathan’s name at the Family Outdoors Day at the James A. Reed Memorial Wildlife Area in Lee’s Summit.  This marks the first time Nathan’s Catch has supported an event in St. Louis.  “Communities First is truly grateful for the fishing equipment donated by Nathan’s Catch.  Having these rods and reels made this fishing event possible,” said Lucinda Frazier, board member of Communities First and event organizer.  “The kids here today were excited to get a rod of their own.  They will also be put to good use with youth fishing programs we do here in the future. We are glad Nathan’s Catch was willing to support our event in St. Louis.”

The fishing event started at 7 a.m. and went into the afternoon. “We estimate we saw more than 40 kids over the course of the morning. They had a blast.  They caught fish, and for many of them it was a completely new experience.  They learned a lot,” said Stone.

“There’s really nothing more fun than seeing a kid catch their first fish and muster the courage to touch the slimy fish and worms,” Stone continued. 

Schulte was impressed that seasoned anglers, already fishing in the park, spontaneously stepped in to help the kids.  “It was an excellent example of cooperation between city government, state governments, nonprofit organizations, and community members,” Schulte said.  “It was great to help celebrate Fathers’ Day and Juneteenth.”

The non-profit organization, Communities First, will retain the remaining donated fishing gear to support future youth fishing events in Hyde Park.  After the Hyde Park event, many of the young anglers and their mentors were planning to fish the next day at Fairgrounds Park as part of a Juneteenth celebration there.  MDC regularly stocks fish in Fairgrounds Park Lake in the City of St. Louis as part of its Urban Fishing Program.  

“The future of conservation is in the hands of the youth in our communities,” said Schulte.  “To be able to provide an introduction to fishing for kids who may have never had the opportunity to go fishing was definitely the highlight of the event.”