Photos, story by Jeff Cramer, Case Manager,
Pine Grove Youth Conservation Camp
Young offenders battling blazes in northern California caught a break to cool off and learn some life skills thanks to a program offered by the state wildlife department.
Twice a year, California Fish and Wildlife opens the state to anglers for free fishing days.
It’s a program designed to allow people to experience fishing, many of them for the first time.
This was true in early September as guys from the Pine Grove Youth Conservation Camp were able to take a short break from battling wild land fires and relax on the shores of Bear River Reservoir.
To get the true experience, the young men arose from bed early, took their breakfast and lunch with them, and loaded into the vehicle to make the 45-minute journey to the reservoir.
As is the case with all the lakes in the state, the reservoir’s water level was low, adding to the walking distance to the water’s edge.
Once at the water, each young man grabbed a rod and reel, were shown how to tie on a hook, and each chose the bait.
For most, it was their first experience fishing so a casting lesson was next.
Once casting was mastered, they spent the next three hours trying different baits, depths and lures to land a trout.
When it came time to return to camp, the anglers learned the true meaning of the saying, “That’s why they call it fishing and not catching.”
Many returned to camp with empty stringers. They did however bring back an understanding of the sport and an excitement to return to the lake again in the future.
According to officials, being out in nature and the chance to experience fishing is a rehabilitative endeavor, showing the young offenders there is a better life beyond the actions which landed them in hot water in the first place.