Hook, Line & Thinker

by Steve Chaconas

Kids are the future. The Maryland Department of Natural Resources is sold on this concept and is putting money on it.

Getting the biggest bang for their conservation buck, fisheries biologist Dr. Joe Love is delivering a message and the goods to promote fishing conservation with youth involvement. The Director’s Black Bass Conservation Award (DNR looking for a new name) provides a black bass conservation award. Not a cash award, rather the Department is putting up $1000 in equipment purchases to support conservation during bass tournaments, divided between two groups every year if budgets allow. 

DNR’s offer comes with a catch. To hook kids on fishing, tournament director or co-director applicant must be a Maryland resident. Participants need a Maryland fishing license. With at most 49 boats, at least 50% of angler participants must be between 16 and 25 years old, ages inclusive. And Dr. Love says, as with all DNR permitted tournaments, participants must take “bass class” and answer questions based on videos. Graduates receive an email certificate. Tournament Directors can apply on-line (dnr.maryand.gov/fisheries) or contact Dr. Love.

The Ike Foundation applied for the award for their tournament on the Upper Chesapeake Bay at a site lacking in necessary equipment to conduct a conservation-minded weigh in. Prior events released fish off a pier, however low tides put tournament fish in a perilous position with a steep drop off the dock and very shallow turbid water.  Dr. Love suggested a chute to safely release fish further from the dock. Dr. Love says the equipment will follow Ike Foundation events to promote conservation wherever they go, “A win for bass fishing and not just here to preserve the sport for years to come.”

Earlier awards have gone to tournament organization Fishers of Men. Their event was a Catch, Photograph and Release (CPR). Hand scales were provided by the MD DNR and Fishers of Men uses them at other events. This award promoted youth fishing and CPR, the latest tournament conservation effort. 

The IKE Foundation, a dream to reality of professional bass fisherman Michael “IKE” and Becky Iaconelli, has been getting kids involved in fishing and providing scholarships for 8 years. Kids who wouldn’t otherwise have the opportunity to experience the outdoors are provided with new Abu Garcia “Ike” Dude rods, Flambeau tackle boxes, and Rapala fishing lures. Corporate sponsors are lining up; including Bass Cat, Yamaha, Power Pole, and Lowrance, to create a memorable event. 

Co-Founder Becky Iaconelli says kids have fun with anything pulling back on that line. “Parents are with their kids to reinforce the lessons learned and appreciate the fishing knowledge and tools…info like tying a knot and the basics…parents are excited…especially single moms! Now I can do this with my child.” Kids are involved with various activities with plenty of photos. Walmart now carries the special IKE foundation Flambeau tackleboxes with proceeds going to the 501(C)(3) not-for-profit organization. 

Becky plans to bring the Ike Foundation back to the Upper Bay in 2023 and MD DNR welcomes them.

Author Capt. Steve Chaconas is Potomac bass fishing guide & freelance writer. Potomac River reports: nationalbass.com. YouTube video channel NationalBassGuide.

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