HOWELL – Over 30 fishing enthusiasts attended the “Hooked on Fishing, Not on Drugs” event, to help spread awareness of drug and alcohol use to kids.
Many families gathered at Alfred C. Sauer Park at Echo Lake, giving kids the opportunity to be involved in a positive recreational activity.
The NJDEP Division of Fish & Wildlife created the program with the goal to encourage school-aged children to avoid tobacco, drug and alcohol usage by providing alternative activities. This involves learning to fish, appreciating aquatic and environmental resources and developing positive life skills.
This is the first year Howell Township has taken on the event. The Director of Community Relations in Howell Township, Steven Fecher, hosted the event and explained how the program was a great introductory event as COVID restrictions are begin to lift in the state.
“The Public Works Director Paul Novello is an avid fisherman and he sent me this information and said ‘hey do you want to take a look into Hooked on Fishing, Not on Drugs.’ I’ve heard of it before, but we’ve never taken part of it because our Baxter’s Fishing Derby in October,” Fecher said. “Knowing that things were getting better out there, I was itching to do a special event. I put in the application to the NJDEP to host the event, they came back to me the next day saying you’re in. Since we’ve done fishing derbies in the past, it was like second nature on my part. I put it together and was excited to get out there to have our first special event in the township since pre-COVID.”
The Howell Alliance for substance use prevention and mental health awareness also attended the event and enjoyed speaking with the parents that were present.
“I was happy to participate in Hooked on Fishing, Not on Drugs and so glad the township hosted the event that promotes positive youth activities as a protective factor against substance use,” said Christa Riddle, Howell Alliance coordinator. “The best part of the morning was seeing parents interacting with their young children and enjoying their time together outside. Echo Lake is a serene setting and as we ease back into activities after COVID-19, it is important for families to self-care and relax in support of their mental well-being. This has been a stressful year, and there is nothing like fresh air, conversation, and simple shared activities in nature to heal the soul.”
The Department of Community Relations gave out trophies, bait and light refreshments to those who attended. Prize bags were given by the NJDEP Division of Fish & Wildlife to anglers of the 1st, 2nd, 3rd, and 4th place largest fish. Inside were items like a fishing rod, medallion, backpack, fishing is fun book, Beginner’s Guide to Freshwater Fishing in NJ, HOFNOD mask, hand towel, luggage tag, line clippers, spinning lure, tape measure, tru-turn hooks and bobbers. They also supplied 25 tote bags which included a band-aid dispenser, lip gloss, nail clippers, fishing digest and a say no to drugs activity book
The event had a total of 67 fish caught that included bluegill, bass, pickerel and perch. Attendees were divided into four different and two categories:
5 to 7 years old: largest fish trophy, 1st& 2nd place; smallest fish trophy 1st & 2nd place.
8 to 10 years old: largest fish trophy, 1st& 2nd place; smallest fish trophy 1st & 2nd place.
11 to 14 years old: largest fish trophy, 1st& 2nd place; smallest fish trophy 1st & 2nd place.
15 years old and up: largest fish trophy, 1st& 2nd place.
The big winners of the day, catching the largest fish were:
1st place: Byron/Evlynn Tatte, large mouth bass at 13.5 inches.
2nd place: Bodhi Bourke, age 7 pickerel at 13 inches.
3rd place: Ruby Bourke, pickerel at 12.5 inches.
4th place: Kailey Castellano, age 10, pickerel at 12.5 inches.