Kidfish events have had a great impact on urban youth in our state since it began holding its events in July of 1994. The program is designed to give all children the opportunity to participate in the sport of fishing. It is of vital importance to the programâ€™s sponsors to gain a renewed interest in the outdoors among todayâ€™s youth. Jody Jackson of Austin is the director of Kidfish, which has been in operation less than a year. It is a program sponsored by the Share-A-Lunker Foundation, Parks and Wildlife Foundation of Texas and the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department. Kidfish is a childrenâ€™s fishing program open to children 16 and younger. Participants are asked to collect sponsorships from friends, relatives and neighbors to win a variety of awards and prizes. To date, eight Kidfish events have been held in Austin, Round Rock, Cedar Park, San Marcos, Pearland, Lampasas, College Station and Corpus Christi. Since October 1994, Kidfish has stocked about 16,500 legal, catchable-size catfish and rainbow trout, says Jackson. Over 7,000 people have attended Kidfish events since its beginning, including 4,000 children. It is estimated that 30% of those children had never fished before and caught their first fish at the Kidfish event. Some of these kids are exposed to fishing only through Kidfish. The Corpus Christi event, held on Jan. 28, drew a crowd of 2,500, including 1,000 children who attended the Kidfish seminar during the event. Twenty-five Kidfish events will be held in the Houston area of Texas during a six week period from April 1 through May 15, 1995. The Chevy First Team Dealers are underwriting the events with a contribution of $130,000. The weekend of April 1 and 2 will see Kidfish events at seven sites in Houston and surrounding counties. Kidfish will be held at one site on April 8 in the Galveston/Texas City area, three sites on April 15 in the Freeport/Bay City area and four sites on April 23 and 24 in the area west of Houston near Rosenberg and Sealy. Sunday, April 30, the events will move to the area northeast of Houston near Livingston and Cleveland where there are four sites. Moving a little further west to Huntsville and Conroe, the events will be held at two sites on Saturday, May 6, and two sites on Sunday, May 7, in the Brenham/Hempstead area. Saturday, May 13, Kidfish will hold events at two sites near Bellville and the Kidfish Classic is tentatively cheduled to be held June 3 at Sheldon Pond in east Houston. Twenty thousand catfish ranging from one to seven pounds will be stocked in area ponds for these events. All the equipment needed, including rods, reels, bait and tackle, will be supplied by the sponsors and volunteers will be on hand to help the kids and their parents fish. Over one million registration forms will be distributed for the events. Five children from each of the 25 events will be invited to attend the Chevy First Team – Kidfish Classic on June 10. The five will include the top fund-raiser, the child who catches the largest fish and three specially drawn children from each event. At the Classic, the child who catches the largest fish will receive a $1000 savings bond and that childâ€™s school will receive $5000 worth of computer equipment courtesy of the Chevy First Team Dealers. All the parents of the Kidfish Classic participants will be invited to enter a drawing for a one-year lease of a Chevy truck. Every participant of the events will receive a T-shirt and a participation ribbon. Additional prizes will be awarded to the top five fund-raisers and to the child who catches the largest fish by length. Contestants who raise $15 or more will receive a Kidfish bass trophy. A three station 15-minute Kidfish educational course will be held at each event. Net income from all Kidfish events will benefit the Community Fishing Program of the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department. The goal of Kidfish is to reach more than 1 million Texas children with Kidfish information and introduce 30,000 new youngsters to the outdoors and the sport of fishing. Kidfish is designed to introduce youngsters to the outdoors and the sport of fishing while raising funds for a variety of programs, including youth outdoor education, conservation, stocking and community fishing, Jackson says. The long-range goal is to one day establish a community fishing program and Kidfish event in every interested Texas city. One sponsor of Kidfish is the Share-A-Lunker Program. This Program is a subsidiary of the Parks and Wildlife Foundation of Texas and its purpose is to raise funds for the projects of the Foundation. Phil Durocher is the director of the TPWD inland fisheries unit and director of the Share-A-Lunker Program. â€œFor the last ten years or so,â€ he says, â€œwe have become increasingly concerned with where our constituency is coming from.â€ He told me of the growing apathy among the younger generations for the outdoors and cites as a reason for this lack of concern the growing cities and urban lifestyles of the state. â€œSome of these kids have no idea how it feels to reel in a fish.â€ Kidfish has been designed to build an appeal for the outdoors among children who donâ€™t have the opportunity to fish. It is a program that has really caught on in urban areas and, hopefully, will help build a love for the Great Outdoors among todayâ€™s youth. Durocher says, â€œif we want to build a new generation of anglers and conservationists, weâ€™re going to have to go them. Thatâ€™s what Kidfish is about….â€ Durocher adds, â€œit is exciting because most of the effort is being funded by private sources. In these times of tight state budgets, itâ€™s critical that these types of partnerships be formed. This is about people helping themselves, their communities and their state build a bright future for the outdoors.â€ Volunteers are needed for all the Kidfish events. Contact Jody Jeackson with questions or for more information at: (512) 918-9497, or for information about the Houston events, contact your local Chevy dealer. Another way you can help is to sponsor a young angler in these or any other Kidfish events. Letâ€™s help fishing in Texas be as popular in generations to come as it is today!