KAYSVILLE — Tristen Ferrin was on a roll.
Just two hours into the day, he had already caught eight fish — that’s eight more than his classmates who were standing right beside him, but just couldn’t find the same luck.
“Everyone else has caught nothing,” Ferrin said, a sly grin on his face as he left to try his luck in another spot. “This is 100 times better than sitting in class.”
Ferrin and more than a dozen of his classmates from Jefferson Academy were on a fishing field trip to Kaysville Ponds, one of dozens of what are known as community fisheries along the Wasatch Front.
Community fisheries, also known as urban fisheries, are typically man-made ponds found in local cities, often right next to residential areas, schools and businesses right in the heart of the city. In Utah, most of them are managed as warm-water fisheries containing catfish, bluegill, perch and other warm-water species, although many are stocked with rainbow trout as well.
“They’re a neat resource for the public,” said Phil Douglass, conservation outreach manager for the Utah Division of Wildlife Resources, which manages fish populations in community ponds. “25 percent of anglers in Utah say the wouldn’t buy a license if we didn’t have these community fishing waters.”
Shyrel Wood, the physical education teacher at Jefferson Academy, got the idea to take her class fishing as a way fulfill the life skills portion of her curriculum.
“I wanted to get them outside, and it only took about five minutes to get here,” said, who has never been much of an angler herself, but still managed to catch a fish during the outing. “Phil made it all happen, free of charge, and the kids are loving it.”
Ninth-grader Abby Panter has previous experience fishing with family in Idaho, but is also very familiar with Kaysville Ponds.
“My house is just up the street, so I come here all the time,” Panter said.
Community fisheries provide a fun, easy way to spend quality time with family and friends outdoors, Douglass said. They offer a setting for parents and kids to talk, enhance family interaction, and keep busy Utahns in touch with the natural world. Fishing can provide families with opportunities to get away from their day-to-day problems and share time together.
Kids benefit from fishing immensely, he added, since they can participate solo or with others. It’s a sport that builds self-esteem and confidence while enhancing problem-solving and decision-making skills.
They’re also a good option for field trips for school classes, scouts and other youth groups looking for an affordable option for their next outing, Douglass said.
“Money is at a premium when it comes to field trips, and community ponds are one of the most accessible choices,” he said.
It’s about to become an even more attractive option. On July 1, a new law takes effect offering the chance for school classes and other youth groups with members older than 12 (the age at which anglers are normally required to purchase a Utah fishing license) to fish for free on Utah waters during organized outings. It represents a concerted effort to get more young people interested in fishing and spending more time in the outdoors in general, Douglass said.
“We’re hoping schools and other nonprofit youth groups will take advantage of this,” he said. “As long as it’s a formal, organized group with a leader, they basically get a free fishing license.”
Not only is the fishing itself free, the DWR also will provide equipment and instructions at such outings at no cost to the group. The agency has a trailer emblazoned with an image of a worm on a hook and the catchphrase “Good things come to those with bait.” The trailer is loaded with rods, reels, and other gear for kids who don’t have their own to use, Douglass said.
The DWR already has an Urban Fishing Program, which includes an educational component for children who have never fished, or haven’t fished as much as they’d like. Youth fishing clubs form each spring in various communities to introduce young people to the joys of responsible sport fishing. The clubs are lead by adult mentors who teach interest youth about fish, the place they live, and how to catch them.
There are 45 official community ponds in Utah managed by the DWR, including 16 in the Top of Utah, ranging from Skylar’s Pond in Logan to Bountiful Lake. Regulations, facilities, access and fish species can vary from one fishery to another, so check the Utah Community Fishing guidebook, available at DWR offices or online at http://wildlife.utah.gov, for more details.