By Hartt Wixom
Here’s One Way to Get the Kids Off the Couch!
The Dixie region has many waters helpful to young anglers trying to learn the ropes. Several of the best are the Tawa ponds along Snow Canyon Parkway (near the softball ponds) and Skyline Pond north of St. George. Washington City also has such a fishing hole. Recently I took two grandsons, Zarek Proffit and Ian Wixom, to such urban waters where they caught their first fish.
The local ponds are great places to take them after bluegills. (Bluegills and kids go together like peanut-butter and jelly.) Besides local ponds, the Santa Clara below the Shivwits Reservation has some ‘gills in deeper pools. Note: the lower sector also has rare and endangered species. Be certain to return all such fish.
If older anglers will return their fish on these waters, they can be productive for upcoming generations. I have used the upper Tawa pond for fly fishing classes from Dixie State University and it works perfectly for the beginner: easy-to-locate trout and bass which are adapting to natural feed. (It is remarkable how rapidly stocked fish in these ponds switch from hatchery pellets to available insect life. They can even become quite selective.)
Since trout do not do well during heat of summer in the St. George area (lower elevation) urban ponds, they are usually not stocked until about November. All are great places to take a Boy Scout troop, and the Division of Wildlife Resources has graciously allowed (fill out a form) scouts to do so as a group without having to buy individual licenses. The leader must, of course, posses a valid one.
Young anglers can learn much about fishing skills even if simply tossing out a worm beneath a bobber. It is especially valuable at inner city settings where an adult may have time to help a novice. More and more in Salt Lake Valley, Ogden, Provo-Orem and throughout Utah, small fishing lakes are being established almost within city limits. A call to the Division of Wildlife Resources can let you know where an urban fishery is near you.
It’s all an antidote for a kid who might not take up the outdoor challenge at all if not as convenient as video games and a potential television wasteland. Trends show fewer fishing licenses being sold today throughout Utah and the USA. Most of the decline is among juvenile ages. Older anglers can introduce them to the Great Outdoors.
After basic skills are acquired, the angler can move on to “wild” waters such as Kolob, Baker and Pine Valley Reservoir et al. Area trout streams include: Gunlock, Leeds and South Ash creeks, Duck Creek on Cedar Mountain and the Sevier River. If in a stream more is usually involved than merely walking up and casting in. A small creek requires stalking techniques, soft footfalls, wakeless wading, and accurate aim to avoid snags. If the latter don’t cause spooked fish, you’re lucky.
“Wild” fisheries do not offer a catch rate as high as the drive-by waters but they offer a chance to gain greater skills. There is, in a more natural environment, the likelihood of finding enrichment via wildlife and rugged scenery. My own introduction to angling was in a small, air-clear stream with cutthroat trout, born free, fish which had never seen hatchery concrete. Yet, they flourished within the limits of a large metropolitan city. These fish had survived low water, kids with nets, predatory animals, flood-control dredging and pollution. They had to be extra savvy. In short, streams can offer more difficult conditions.
It goes without saying that adults should be willing to help wean their charges away from the couch potato syndrome long enough for them to be exposed to the natural world. Hopefully, we can take good care of the Tawa ponds and others like them throughout the entire state. They contribute in a large measure to the quality of life we all enjoy in southern Utah.