By VICTORIA CANN
The Exponent Telegram
CLARKSBURG, W.Va — West Virginia Division of Natural Resources will be hosting its annual Free Fishing Days this weekend.
The state has supported these days as a part of the fishing landscape for a number of years, said Bret Preston, assistant chief of the Wildlife Resources section.
“The state law gives the agency permission to establish two days of free fishing where residents or nonresidents can fish for free without a license,” he said. “We always have those days in conjunction with National Fishing and Boating Week and usually incorporates the first full weekend in June.”
“If they haven’t fished for a number of years, this is a time to go out with family and friends. We call this reactivating,” he said. “This time in June is typically great weather with a lot of family reunions going on across the state.”
This weekend is also a great chance for people to try fishing if they’ve never fished before, Preston said. They aren’t required to have a license and people are able to figure out if it’s something they would enjoy.
“This is an opportunity to reacquaint, reactivate and recruit people for fishing that have never done it,” he said. “People are able to get together to enjoy it, and they can see if they’ll want to buy a license in the future.”
For those looking to head out this weekend and cast a line, Preston said there are some things to keep in mind.
“Safety first. You’ll be around water, so it’s always a great idea even from the shore or especially in a boat, to make sure everyone has a life jacket,” he said. “First thing people need to be reminded of is safety first, but it’s still a fun thing to do.”
Always practice safe casting when fishing and being careful when there is a hook on the end of line, Preston said.
“Keep it really simple. Fishing isn’t necessarily an all-day thing. Let children enjoy the fishing time, but let them also explore and enjoy being out,” he said. “Make it a really special event because fishing is part of an environment where they can see dragon flies, tadpoles, flowers, and birds.”
Preston mentioned that it’s an overall experience, not all of it has to be fishing and that’s what makes the state parks such a great place for this weekend.
“At some of the parks, there will be catchable-sized catfish. (Kids) can play on the playground, and then come back and fish,” he said. “It’s also a great place to introduce children and adults to fishing because they are really nice places to relax, spend time on the shoreline and enjoy time outside.”
Jonathan Teets, superintendent of Audra State Park, said, although they don’t have any special events this weekend, there will be staff out to help.
“One thing people need to keep in mind is that fisherman and swimmers need to be aware of each other,” he said. “Last weekend, we were so packed, you had to walk very far away to fish. They just have to learn to co-exist.”
The Middle Fork River that runs through the park is one of several that is stocked. Teets said this makes for a great opportunity to get out and fish.
During the weekend, the 26th annual Bowden Fishing Derby will be held at the Bowden Fish Hatchery in Bowden, nine miles east of Elkins. Jim Hendrick, hatchery program manager, said there are several purposes for the derby.
“The purpose of fishing derbies is to encourage children to go fishing and then hopefully they’ll become a regular angler,” he said. “We do it on the free fishing weekends because it’s right after stocking season and it’s not too hot yet.”
The derby will be held Saturday and is open to kids ages 3-14. Each age group will have their own hour and a half to fish in the Put and Take Pond, while the Catch and Release Pond will be open from 8 a.m.-1:30 p.m.
“This is a very popular event and has been for years. We see between 400 to 500 kids and those are the ones that were actually registered and got participant numbers,” Hendrick said.
Other groups such as the Forest Service usually host a casting competition in which kids are able to win different prizes. Hooked on Fishing Not On Drugs also gives away some fishing poles choosing names from the kids signed up to fish.
Hendrick also mentioned Trout Unlimited will have people on hand to help children who would like to be introduced to fly fishing.
“They will show them different techniques and how to use a fly rod,” he said. “They’ll also be on the look out for kids who are struggling and show them a technique that’s more likely to work for them.”
Registration instructions for the derby and more information on the Free Fishing Days can be found by visiting wvdnr.gov.
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