Itook my son fishing for the first time in his short life this past Sunday.

He's just a few months past his second birthday, so we spent more time going through the motions than reeling in fish. But it was a magical time.

As we drove away from the water's edge, I heard the words every angling dad wants to here. "Fishing again," he said from the back seat. Oh yeah, we'll go fishing again.

Because my son enjoyed his first real fishing trip this week, I thought it was great timing that the Fish and Boat Commission unveiled its latest pilot program on Tuesday. The new plan is a great way to get more youngsters off the couch and onto local waterways.

Over the last few years, the Fish and Boat Commission's counterparts at the Game Commission have done an artful job of creating youth-only hunting opportunities. The agency's mentored-hunting program gives young hunters the unique opportunity to get into the woods and fields before the main seasons open and the land is crowded with the ranks of more-seasoned hunters. The Fish and Boat Commission's new program is very similar. It focuses on an idea that has been sorely needed for nearly a generation.

Anybody who has ever participated in the state's carnival-like trout opener knows what I'm talking about. Trout fishing is a great activity for young anglers. But try to teach the particulars of the sport on the first day of the season and, oh boy, you'd better be ready for some crossed looks and angry grunts.


On the opener, trout streams are lined with anglers. And too few of those fishermen are willing to make room for a novice -- not when the stream is packed full of freshly-stocked trout. But now they won't have to.

The Commission's new program will open select waterways to youngsters the Saturday before the chaotic southeast regional opener. For one day, the region's well-stocked streams will be open only to mentored anglers under the age of 16.

"We know from research that children who fish typically learn from their parents or other family members," said John Arway, the Fish and Boat Commission's executive director. "Research also shows that the positive experience from a mentoring program creates a big influence on kids and their adult mentors, making it more likely that they will continue in the sport."

The beauty of the fresh program is it helps ensure a stress-free day of fishing, which means the child is that much more likely to enjoy the sport and not abandon it in favor of the latest video game. It also means when the traditional opening day rolls around a week later, the young anglers will have some experience under their belt and won't be disappointed if their favorite hole is already taken.

There's only one way to ensure our youngest generations embrace our sports. That's to start them young and make it enjoyable. This new mentored program will do exactly that.

-- Reach Andy Snyder at sports@yorkdis