SCI Michigan Sponsors Youth Fishing
“Fish on! Fish on!” Someone on the Powderhorn Charters boat saw a rod start to bounce, and the reel started clicking as the line went out! That is the call I heard earlier this spring when fishing with Captain Tim Becker on his boat The Reel Ginger in Lake Michigan. We had a bunch of rather shy youngsters (it was the 18th Birthday for one of the kids) out for a morning of fishing to experience the great outdoors, build a team experience, and expand their own personal horizons. The species of fish we were targeting were lake trout, brown trout, steelhead (Lake Michigan rainbow) trout, Coho, and Chinook (king) salmon. Some of these fish can be over 30 lbs., and once hooked, the fight is on!
On this morning trip, the group of five kids aged 14 to 18, were from a local organization our local SCI chapter works with. Our chapter provides charter fishing trips for local schools and other organizations. Typically, when the kids get onboard, they are shy and unsure of what the day on the water will be like with strangers. But by the end of the fishing experience, we are all high-fiving and enjoying each other’s company. If we have a morning charter, there is also a chapter-sponsored lunch at the lakeside home of fellow chapter member Dr. Craig Bade and his delightful wife Amy. The kids get a special bonus by seeing lots of cool animal mounts from around the world, which always stimulates many interesting and positive conversations! So, to answer the question of does our local SCI chapter support fishing, yes, we sure do and in a big way! Let me explain.
The Michigan Chapter of Safari Club International has had a program to get kids and other deserving folks outdoors and experience sport fishing for many years now. This program was the brainchild of Dr. Bade who had a friend confined to a wheelchair. That did not deter Craig from getting him out fishing. They completed that successful fishing trip with Captain Tim’s help back in July of 2016.
That trip had such a profound impact on this man’s life that it started the thought process about how fishing could be used to make people’s lives better by the healing powers of positive outdoor experiences. It also gives everyone a greater appreciation of all the wonderful gifts nature has to offer. It became abundantly clear to us that by getting kids (including challenged and those with special needs) and deserving adults fishing, we could accomplish our goal.
Dr. Bade brought the idea before our board, and it was approved as an on-going humanitarian project. The program was officially approved and kicked off in April of 2017. And it was hugely successful!! As our humanitarian chair, I have the privilege of involving many of our chapter members to go on these charters as our SCI supporters and helpers. Since we started our charter fishing program, we have taken well over 100 individuals out for this experience.
When Covid hit, we had to shut down the charter fishing for a while, but the program is now back in full swing. And the responses to this program have been stellar! We have even had articles written in local papers about what the Michigan Chapter of SCI, First for Hunters, has provided to so many through fishing! And we’ve been featured on Michigan Out-of-Doors TV. Following one of the trips, the superintendent of the school system we were serving came along on a charter with us. As the morning wore on, I felt comfortable in asking him, “What made you decide to come on this fishing trip, with your extremely busy schedule?” His answer was, “I wanted to see firsthand the experience and better understand what was behind the organization who would do this free of any charge for our school kids. Now that I have experienced it, I totally understand. We thank you and your chapter members for this truly unique experience!”
Our first charter this year was on March 24, and I can attest to the fact that the temperatures on Lake Michigan were still very low (ice had just disappeared), and we fished from 4:00pm until sunset. On that first charter the kids boated 15 lakers, and those kids were cold, until the first fish hit. Then they started having a wonderful time and hated to see the sun set requiring us head back to port.
Oh, remember that youngster on his 18th birthday I mentioned earlier? On the way back into port he leaned into me and softly said, “Thank You! My best birthday ever.”