‘Fishing for Futures’ dubbed great success

More than 30 local students spent much of Saturday on Rainy Lake and while not all of them returned with fish, they all walked away with some new friends and a memorable experience.
The Fort Frances OPP organized the first-ever “Fishing for Futures,” taking a group of Grade 6 students who had graduated from the Drug Awareness and Resistance Education (D.A.R.E.) program fishing for a day.
They then wrapped up the event with a barbecue at Sunny Cove Camp and prizes for the young anglers.
Caelynn Watson and Courtney Armstrong, both students from J.W. Walker School here, said the highlight of their day was when one of the officers they were fishing with fell out of the boat while trying to get a minnow from the bucket.
The pair said they had a great time, though they only caught one fish between the two of them.
When asked what kind of fish she caught, Armstrong shrugged and said, “Some kind of fish.”
But the purpose of the day was not primarily to catch fish, but rather to build relationships between youth and local police officers.
Local OPP officers deliver the D.A.R.E. program to students in school, but have less opportunity to spend time with them outside the classroom.
“We were just thinking of a way we could have the officers and the kids come together in a positive, informal setting,” said Cst. Dereck McLean.
About 22 officers and 30 students hit the water Saturday. The officers donated the use of their own boats for the day.
Because D.A.R.E. teaches students the importance of having alternatives to drugs and alcohol, fishing seemed like a good activity to get the youngsters involved in.
“Fishing is an activity that can by relatively easy to get involved with,” Cst. McLean said. “All you need is a rod and some bait, and you can fish almost anywhere.”
The day also gave the students an opportunity to get to know local police officers personally.
“They get to meet the officers and get to know they’re regular people, too,” noted Cst. McLean. “It’s part of breaking down barriers. Then it’s easier to approach them if they have a problem.”
When planning the event, organizers had approached classroom teachers to get names of students who could benefit most from the experience.
One of those students was Daniel Murray from St. Francis School.
“It was his first time in a boat fishing,” said his mother, Debbie. “It was just wonderful for him.”
Murray said her son was awake most of the night before in anticipation. “He was really excited,” she remarked.
Daniel Murray did well for his first time out; he and fishing partner Keira Allan caught three northerns during the day to win the prize for Most Northern.
The Longest Fish prize went to Trelawney Erwin and Summer Jim, with 28 inches. The Most Fish prize went to Kyle Sinninghe, Joseph Kellar, and Tucker Johnson, who caught 34 fish altogether.
The Least Fish prize went to Jessica Liggins and Kelsey Dillon.
“It’s been really positive. Everybody’s had a really good time,” said Cst. Caroline Spencer.
Cst. McLean said great support from local businesses helped make “Fishing for Futures” a success. Besides the prizes, each student also received a fishing rod and a hat, courtesy of Canadian Tire.
Other sponsors included the local Substance Abuse Prevention Team, the Great Bear (which donated all the bait), M&M Meats (which donated all the food for the barbecue), Canada Safeway (which donated the food for lunches on the lake), the Fort Frances Kiwanis Club (which donated the use of Sunny Cove Camp).
Kiwanis members also volunteered to do the cooking.
“I want to give a big thanks to the guys—some actually took time off to fish and other officers are covering so they could fish,” Cst. McLean said.
He also noted the OPP office staff—Tracy Coran, Bonnie Hoskins, and Barb Harris—prepared all the lunches with the food donated from Safeway.
“We’d still be making lunches if it wasn’t for them,” he said.
Giordan Zin, a co-op student, also was an integral part of the planning.
The officers who participated included retired OPP officers, OPP auxiliary members, retired Fort Frances Police officers, OPP cadets, retired RCMP, customs officers, and members of the Fort Frances Fire Department.
Cst. McLean said he hopes “Fishing for Futures” can become an annual event here.