MS. REBECCA SHEIR
We'll head now to the banks of the Anacostia River. That's where you'll find local kids learning for free a rather old school activity, the art of fishing. But these students aren't just trying to hook the big one. As Lauren Ober tells us they're gaining an appreciation for the river and its crucial role in the region's ecology.
MS. LAUREN OBER
If you want to catch a fish in the Anacostia River, or really anywhere, there's one thing you need to have...
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Yes, patience but that's not something many kids have much of. That's why the Anacostia youth fishing program run by a local nonprofit, the Earth Conservation Corps, is so remarkable. If the kids want to hook a fish they have to be patient. There's no way around that.
MR. JESSIE MOORE
They expect to catch fish immediately. I tell them, you know, it may be five, ten, an hour or you may not catch a fish at all.
That's Jessie Moore a professional bass angler from Columbia, Md., who helps out with the program.
But you have to have patience and then that patience that you get out here that's instilled in you out here, take it over into your everyday life.
Moore looks more like a college running back than a fisherman which may be why the kids connect so well with him. Plus, he knows what he's talking about. He's been fishing since he was their age and has been a pro for the past five years. His passion for fishing is infectious.
You know, this is opening a door to new activities and hopefully they can take this and pass it on to their friends in the neighborhood or take it into their adulthood and pass it on to their children. So that's the whole objective of being here. It definitely beats being inside and playing the video games or hanging out in the neighborhood.
This is the first year for the pilot program. Just about every Friday night this summer kids from the D.C. region have gathered along the banks of the Anacostia River at Diamond Teague Park just a stone's throw from Nationals Park.
Mike Bolinder, the Anacostia Riverkeeper, says there are few opportunities for city kids to access fishing. And that makes a program like this critical.
MR. MIKE BOLINDER
Us being able to facilitate that gives kids a chance to build awareness and that awareness is going to lead to behavior change. These kids are going to grow up and care about the river.
Most of the 20 odd kids who are out on this Friday night trying to hook a catfish don't have much experience with the river even though many of them live in neighborhoods that border it. This program is trying to change that.
MR. TREY SHARARD
You don't protect something until you love it and you don't love something until you know stuff about it. And you don't know something until you see it and experience it.
That's Trey Sharard, a biologist who works with Mike Bolinder. He sees the fishing program as a way to transform the river from an abstract concept to a real living thing. So every line bated, every fish caught, every piece of trash spotted floating on the river's surface becomes a teachable moment.
Tonight a couple of giddy middle school girls from Suitland, Md., are getting help setting up their fishing poles. Sharard takes a piece of bait and spears it with a hook. The bait looks like a marble-sized piece of putty and smells like the most unappetizing sausage ever.
There you go ladies. So reel it until it barely becomes tight. And once the line is straight, so you can get a little more, perfect right there. So now you can watch the tip or keep your finger here. And you'll feel a sort of a bounce. You'll either see it or feel it. So you don't need to watch the line. The tip itself will kind of bob up and down real quick.
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The girls follow Sharard's advice but the fish just aren't biting today. It's windy and the tide is strong. Still, Destiny Boldin and her crew seem to be having a good time.
MS. DESTINY BOLDIN
What I like about fishing is that we get out of the house and we get to do something for the environment.
This program is catch and release so anything that lands on a hook goes back into the river. Biologist Trey Sharard says people shouldn't eat fish caught in the Anacostia though lots of folks do. The river has several toxic hotspots filled with chemicals that can have serious developmental effects on children and pregnant women.
On this particular evening, 11 year-old Katherine Hilyard, of Southeast D.C., is having no luck at all nabbing a fish. But all this waiting around for a bite isn't the worst thing ever.
She's goofing with Kate Harder, a freckle-faced 6 year-old who lives near the U Street corridor in Northwest. They're giggling and getting occasional pep talks from Jessie Moore, the pro. And whether they realize it or not, they're learning.
Do you have any words of wisdom about fishing that you want to tell people?
MS. KATHERINE HILYARD
And if you're not patient then what?
You're going to quit.
And you will never catch a fish if you quit. I'm Lauren Ober.
But for real when are you going to catch a fish?
Probably like in an hour.
You mean I have to wait for an hour until you catch a fish?
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