Join the ranks of 50,000 kids who’ve learned to fish
Friday, April 22, 2011
Media contact: Karen Parker, 386-758-0525
How many people can say they've taken more than 50,000 kids
Mike Lesso and Dave Morse of the Jacksonville Youth Summer
Fishing Clinics can.
"Mike, a high school teacher and avid sportsman, and Dave, a
retired businessman and passionate recreational and tournament
fisherman, have been teaching children how to catch fish for so
long that many of their earliest pupils now have children of their
own," explained Eddie Leonard of the Florida Fish and Wildlife
Conservation Commission's (FWC) Division of Freshwater Fisheries
The summer fishing clinics are designed to help kids appreciate
freshwater resources and teach them the skills needed to start
"These incredible experiences are delivered completely free of
charge to participants," Leonard said. "The program started in 1993
under the direction of FWC biologists but was soon turned over to
Mike and Dave. It's apparent when observing these two that they
love what they are doing."
The classes begin with a 30-minute lecture on ethical angling,
water pollution, fish biology, tackle and techniques, and several
"Then the fun starts," Leonard said. "They take the kids to the
water's edge and watch as the kids tangle lines, step in mud, worry
about alligators and catch their first fish, ever."
Some of the kids get frustrated easily while others seem to be
miles away in thought. However, once they catch the first fish,
they are all very much in the moment.
"The expressions on the faces of the kids catching that first
fish are nothing short of fantastic. There's excitement mixed with
fear, and exhilaration blended with pride," Leonard said.
Leonard went on to explain there always seems to be that one kid
who can be recognized as a true angler.
"One little girl at a recent event was so successful that she
offered to show the other kids how it was done," Leonard said. "The
student became the teacher in 90 minutes."
The workshops host an average of 4,200 children annually. In
2003, a record 5,288 students went through the classes. With Lesso
leading these events for 15 years and Morse at it for 13 years,
it's easy to see how the two have reached more than 50,000 young
The success of the program reflects a cooperative effort between
several organizations. The FWC maintains several fish management
areas in Jacksonville, where the workshops take place. The agency
also maintains the workshop equipment and vehicles. The Fish
Florida Foundation, the George M. Baldwin Foundation and several
local businesses provide all of the bait, tackle, advertisements
and support materials.
"This is a great program showcasing multiple partnerships and
the incredible work of two dedicated volunteers," Leonard said.
"These two men have certainly created many new anglers."
Parents interested in getting their children into a fishing
clinic can call 904-962-8560 for more information.