July 18, 2018
Randy Zellers Assistant Chief of Communications
HEBER SPRINGS - Members of the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission joined local trout guides, educators and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service last week to teach 35 4th- through 6th-grade students about fishing and conservation of our aquatic resources at the 3rd annual Little Red River Fish Camp at JFK Park in Heber Springs.
The camp began as the brainchild of Amanda Brogdon, a teacher with Heber Springs School District and volunteer for the Little Red River Foundation. Her love of trout fishing on the Little Red River and fond memories of attending camps as a youngster spurred her into action.
Brogdon teamed up with Arkansas Game and Fish Commission Wildlife Officer Trent Whitehead and AGFC Fisheries District Supervisor Tom Bly to develop a curriculum that would submerse these young people into the world of fish, aquatic resources and fishing. Now in its third year, the program has really begun to flow.
The camp is held at the pavilion in the Corps of Engineers, JFK Park below Greers Ferry Dam. “A great setting because it sits on the banks of Collins Creek,” Bly said. “The perfect outdoor classroom.”
This year’s camp included sessions on general fish facts, career opportunities with AGFC, how trout are produced at the Greers Ferry National Hatchery, fish anatomy, fish habitat, and amphibians and reptiles.
“The camp coincides with the Trout Program’s seasonal electrofishing sample on Collins Creek,” Bly said. “So they also get a firsthand look at how that works.”
The camp concludes with the Officer Whitehead taking the campers through the Boating Safety Education Course.
Plenty of fishing-related activities and games keep the experience exciting for the youths attending and help burn off that excess energy summer brings. Participants are taught the basics of fishing, fly casting, use of spin-cast reels, bait selection, and fly tying. And, as long as the river levels permit it, they get to put their newfound knowledge to work fishing with a mentor.
Brogdon says the Little Red River Foundation helped tremendously with the effort, through volunteers and funding.
“They paid for the insurance needed to put on this day camp,” Brogdon said. “And one member even paid for all of the fishing poles the kids received to use at camp.”
Former attendees of the camp also came back to help, taking on leadership positions to help campers as they learned.
“I don’t know why our community didn’t have something like this already, but we needed it,” Brogdon said. “Many of these kids have never held a fishing pole in their lives and may not ever be exposed to fishing otherwise.”
Bly said the effort really takes a team effort from many different skill sets to pull off, but the camp has gotten better every year.
“Amanda has put together a strong contingent of volunteers including AGFC enforcement officers, education specialists, and biologists, Greers Ferry National Fish Hatchery personnel, members of the Little Red River Foundation, local fishing guides and parents,” Bly said.