A Columbus woman gathered her children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren together early Saturday and headed to the far east side of Seymour.
The destination of the four generations was a pond at Muscatatuck National Wildlife Refuge that is only open for fishing for those younger than 16.
The purpose behind the excursion put together by Ginger Bloom was pretty simple.
“It gets the kids out of the house and into nature,” she said. “It lets them have an adventure.”
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Saturday was Take a Kid Fishing Day at the 7,724-acre refuge established in 1966.
The event, which has been conducted at least since 1994, featured fun fishing activities for children, including lessons and a big fish contest. Fishing poles and bait were provided for kids who didn’t have fishing gear.
Park ranger Donna Stanley said kids these days don’t spend the time in the outdoors that older folks do.
“They have a lot of stuff inside, and it disconnects them from nature,” Stanley said. “This gives us older folks a chance to interest the next generation.”
The day started off slowly with just a few families, including Bloom’s family, crowded around the small dock at Discovery Pond in various states of fishing or preparing to fish. The Discovery Pond is located behind the refuge office near the entrance off of U.S. 50.
One young fisher, 6-year-old Daelyn Freese, said her favorite part of the fishing was “catching the fish.”
When asked what the biggest fish she ever caught was, Daelyn held her hands up about three inches apart. She said she already knew how to fish because there is a pond she fishes near her home.
“The youngsters are usually interested in the catch, but the older you get, it becomes more about the experience as a whole,” Stanley said.
Bloom said the experience of having the four generations of her family spending time together was something many people don’t get to experience and something that wouldn’t have been possible without the help of the volunteers at the event.
“The volunteers have been so helpful, and we wouldn’t have known how to get started doing this,” Bloom said.
Stanley said it takes lots of volunteer help to put on events such as Take a Kid Fishing Day, and members of the Muscatatuck Wildlife Society play a big role in pulling them off.
On Saturday, members of the nonprofit refuge friends group helped children create fishing poles from sticks, adding fishing line and hooks.
The volunteers also provided paint and fabric for children to make fish bandanas to wear to keep the sun and sweat out of their eyes.
A number of games were set up for the children to try out their fishing skills, and a competition was conducted for the largest fish caught.
Besides the crafts and games, the volunteers taught the youngsters how to tie knots necessary for fishing and shared a few other pointers about fishing.
The Take a Kid Fishing celebration is a part of the National Park Service’s free fishing weekend, which was Saturday and Sunday. Anyone can fish those two days without a license.
Stanley said the main purpose of the refuge is to preserve habitat, and education and recreation were secondary purposes.
“These young folks are our next generation of conservationists and our future,” Stanley said.
The next event at the refuge is Nature Play Day. That event will be from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Saturday near the visitor center and Nature Discovery Area.
There will be a chance for children to play in the mud, participate in an obstacle course and a scavenger hunt and listen to a story reading.