April 29, 2013
Young anglers try their luck
Lime Hollow hosts annual fishing festival for children
Joe McIntyre/staff photographer
BOCES New Visions student Lucas Marsh helps 9-year-old Levi Mydlenski of Homer catch a rainbow trout during Saturday’s fishing derby.
CORTLANDVILLE — Lime Hollow Center for Environment and Culture hosted its 20th annual Fishing Festival on Saturday, inviting young anglers and parents to partake in educational activities at a scientific center where researchers are breaking new ground in aquatic conservation efforts.
Children got lessons on fish biology, proper casting techniques, fisherman’s ethics and other points in outdoorsmanship from Lime Hollow and Onondaga-Cortland-Madison BOCES volunteers. About 50 youths came out to participate, a number slightly down from the usual, according to Glenn Reisweber, executive director of Lime Hollow.
The event represents a three-way partnership between Lime Hollow, OCM BOCES and the Tunison Laboratory of Aquatic Science.
“It’s our way of thanking Tunison for allowing us to manage these 100 acres,” Reisweber said of the event. “We would never be a nature center without them.”
With assistance from BOCES students to set up the various exhibits, ecologist Jim Johnson, branch chief of the Tunison lab, said it was the lab’s way of giving back to the community.
“We’re letting people know we’re here and sharing what we’ve been doing,” said Johnson. Tunison is part of the Great Lakes Science Center, a branch of the U.S. Geological Survey.
Not in the least a hatchery, the lab is concerned with the protection of fish in the Great Lakes impacted by non-native species, such as the Atlantic salmon, deepwater herring and lake sturgeon. The bloater, a type of herring, has gone nearly extinct in all but the upper lakes, said Johnson. His team of four researchers are attempting to reintegrate the fish into Lake Ontario.
Cultivating the breadth of the impacted species is no mean feat. Johnson said they were at the very beginning of an undertaking that could take decades to complete. The alewife, he said, has been a troublesome non-native forage fish that the salmon have been eating, leading to vitamin deficiency and reproductive failure in many cases.
“We’ve got a lot of work to do,” said the SUNY College of Environmental Science and Forestry PhD. One of the lab’s most recent conservation efforts involved integrating about 20,000 salmon into the St. Lawrence River, Johnson said.
One of his students at OCM BOCES, 17-year-old Nathanial Hamilton, helped guide groups along the tour Saturday. Hamilton, a Cortland High School student, very much hopes to follow in Johnson’s footsteps.
The environmental science course he and the group of volunteering students under Johnson are taking encompasses subjects like fish and water, land use, plants and tree identification, and even economics and government, Hamilton said.
“We help Lime Hollow whenever they need us. We’re kind of like minutemen,” he said, adding that the values in Saturday’s activity were about getting children interested in the outdoors.
Hamilton said he just got accepted into SUNY ESF.
Another volunteer, Liz Sharp, who also sits on the board of directors at Lime Hollow, engaged youths in a different way. Using frozen ocean perch donated from Cortland Seafood, Sharp supervised a booth where children painted one side of the fish to press upon a plain shirt, leaving a stylized fishy imprint.
“This is part of loving the outdoors, and art is one way to catch people,” Sharp said.
Children who caught their own rainbow trout during the tour were able to keep their catch. The trout were cleaned and then given back to the children in an iced bag, ready to be cooked at home.
“A lot of kids aren’t into eating fish, but it’s different when you catch one yourself,” Sharp said.
Six-year-old Austin Parente of Lansing agreed.
“I like how they wiggled,” he said, holding his half-foot trout proudly. “I caught the biggest fish.”
His mother, Tammy, brought him and his sister Megan, 8, for their second straight year.
“It’s absolutely awesome,” the mom said of the Fishing Festival. “They learn the basics of fishing, what poles to use, different types of bait.”
A station was setup where children could observe crawdads, salamanders and other types of enticing bait.
“It’s a way of getting them back to nature, instead of being in front of the TV. It gets them to respect nature and the world around us,” she said, adding that the modest $5 entrance fee did not hurt. “We’ll definitely be back next year.”
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