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AFFTA issues annual 'casting calls' on the Potomac

For two days in April every year, the natural cycle of the Potomac River in Washington, D.C., provides center stage for a fishing event intended to connect everyone – from urban youths to the nation’s highest elected officials – to the importance of fish, fishing and aquatic habitats. The Potomac’s run of shad, America’s “First Fish,” itself is a testament to the success that can be achieved when citizens and policy makers work together to conserve our waterways. With the stage set in late April, the Family and Youth Casting Call and the Jim Range National Casting Call honor these successes and set the stage for future conservation efforts.
Hosted by the American Fly Fishing Trade Association (AFFTA), the National Park Service, and dozens of other partners, the Family & Youth Casting Call provides D.C.-area youths with perhaps their first taste of fishing. There can be no more tangible a connection to nature than through a wiggling fish on the end of a taut line. That link becomes practically electric, and inevitably sets the hook for the child to see the great outdoors in a whole new light. At the event, a section of the C&O Canal is netted and stocked with native fish to ensure every child who attends has the opportunity to have that light turn on.
Over recent years, the Family & Youth Casting Call has blossomed into one of the finest youth fishing events in Washington, D.C. Last year, at least 350 children, accompanied by their parents, ventured down to Fletcher’s Boathouse in the C&O Canal National Historical Park for the event. Beyond the joy of fishing, children journey through education stations on the quest to earn their National Park Service Junior Ranger Badge. From fly-tying and casting to fish art to touch tanks to water quality testing, there are experiences for every age group to expand their knowledge of nature; and it satisfies that primal urge for all kids to get just a little bit dirty. This year the Family & Youth Casting Call will be held on Sunday, April 26.
In a similar vein, the Jim Range National Casting Call strives to use fly-fishing to make the connection between fun on a river and the challenges and opportunities to improve fisheries conservation. The event focuses on bringing federal decision-makers out – just a short trip from the nation’s capital – to a river that has seen the benefit of cooperative conservation efforts. The shad that the participants fish for during the Jim Range National Casting Call were largely decimated at the turn of the century, and now the Potomac is one of the only rivers on the eastern seaboard where shad are largely self-sustaining.
It was through creative conservation partnerships that shad in the Potomac have been restored and AFFTA, the National Fish Habitat Action Plan and other partners use the National Casting Call as a platform to spotlight similar efforts around the country. By focusing on the Potomac shad restoration program, the groups hope to make these issues relevant to the people who ultimately make policy decisions on fisheries and aquatic resource conservation.
This year will be particularly poignant as we celebrate the life and vision of Jim Range, AFFTA’s legislative representative and the founder of the Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership. Range, who succumbed to cancer in January, was a true conservation champion in the federal policy arena, and it was he who envisioned the National Casting Call a decade ago. The Jim Range National Casting Call will be held on Monday, April 27, this year.
AFFTA encourages OWAA members to attend the events or, if you are unable to be there, we can provide information to help you cover them. For more information about the Family & Youth Casting Call, go to www.familyandyouthcastingcall.com. For the Jim Range National Casting Call, go to www.nationalcastingcall.com. Or contact Jodi Stemler, chair of the events’ communications committee at jodi@stemlerconsulting.com or 703-915-1386.
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