Benefits of community fishing program touted

Pat Ryan urges Avoyelles to consider state "Get Out and Fish" program

By Raymond L. Daye

    When he thinks back on his childhood, the things he remembers most are those quiet times with his father, just sitting on the bank watching his bobber do that little “bream dance” it does just before it disappears under the surface.
    Pat Ryan is over 60 now, so his boyhood days are long past. His love of fishing and belief in the magic of  such father-son moments  as described earlier have not. With that in mind, Ryan has undertaken a campaign to get his hometown of Bunkie involved in the “Get Out and Fish” program.
    The Louisiana Department of Wildlife & Fisheries sponsors the program to encourage the development of community fishing programs.
Ryan has pitched his idea to several groups -- not just Bunkie groups -- because he thinks it is a worthwhile effort. He would like to see a Bunkie “Get Out and Fish” program utilize that section of Bayou Hoffpauir between Bunkie Elementary and  the Methodist church, between Rose Street and Pershing Highway.
   “I know this program works,” he said. “I saw it work in Lafayette.”
   The program seeks to increase the number of people with access to quality fishing with the intent being to create a new generation of avid anglers. To achieve this goal, public water bodies that meet the required specifications are chosen by LDWF biologists and stocked on a regular basis for up to one year.
   After the first year, local partners would have to step up and pay for stocking and other maintenance costs.
   There are criteria that must be met before a community is eligible to participate. The pond or body of water must be close to the municipality and have public access, including being handicapped accessible. There should be adequate parking and good bank access. Priority is given to sites with restroom facilities.
     The program seeks to develop partnerships with other entities to ensure the purchase of adult fish to stock the site, maintain the waterbody in an biologically sound manner.  
     “So many of our youth have never been fishing,” Ryan said. “They don’t know anything about it. I think they should and I this program is a good way to help make that happen.”
      Ryan said that fishing is one of the best ways to “beat boredom.”
      The rationale is, if there’s nothing to do, you might as well do it while sitting on the bank of the bayou with a fishing pole.
      Ryan spoke to Cleve Hardman, director of the Office of State Parks’ Outdoor Recreation department, and received another enthusiastic response. Hardman’s agency administers the federal Land & Water Recreation grants to the state, and said the community fishing program could be a good candidate for funding through that source -- in addition to the LDWF program.
     While he cannot promise that the community fishing program would be funded -- or even if the federal government will provide funds for the grants this coming year -- he can say that “the type of program described is the kind that was designated as a top priority for funding. What that would mean is -- assuming the funds are available -- it would rise to the top of the list to be funded.”
     The grant application process is done online and applications must be in by April 1, 2016 to be considered for award next year. All political subdivisions are eligible to apply.
     Ryan said if Bunkie, Avoyelles Police Jury or a partnership of several entities wanted to start the program, it could apply for the federal grant to help expand it.
     Hardman said that once an entity receives the federal funds, there is a “life-time commitment” to operate the site for public outdoor recreation.