Young fishermen do simulated tests for the real thing
Written by Belleville News-Democrat   
Wednesday, 15 June 2005 01:27
Simulated fishing is not as easy as it sounds. Just ask 12-year-old Tyneshia Parchman of Belleville.

She was able to reel in a fish last year, but didn't make a catch this year. But she didn't let it bother her. "It was fun," she said. "I liked it a lot."

Illinois Department of Natural Resources' Mark Yehling brought a fishing simulator to the Lessie Bates Davis Neighborhood House at 1200 N. 13th St. in East St. Louis on Monday afternoon. Children participating in the house's recreational program, "Around the world and states in nine weeks," patiently waited for their chance to reel in fish like the 70-pound sailfish that swam on a TV screen.

"It's set up to feel like that fish," said Yehling, a Southern Illinois Urban Fishing Program coordinator. The children worked with a heavy-duty saltwater pole with a line attached to the simulation equipment as they "reeled in" fish from a basketball court-width away.

DNR fishing instructor Dee Toombs said the simulation is good practice before the children go out to the lake at Kenneth Hall Park later in the program.

"Fishing is something that's totally positive," Toombs said. She said fishing is like "learning how to ride a bike. You learn it, you don't forget it."

Neighborhood House recreation supervisor Mary Parchman said she thinks the program is important "because most urban kids do not get to go fishing."

"They strive to catch a big fish so we can cook them," said Parchman. "They love it."

The children apply what they learn in practice when they go to the lake Tuesdays and Thursdays with organizer Sylvester "Sunshine" Lee, who heard about the Urban Fishing Program three years ago.

"The concept that Sunshine is trying to bring them was if I teach you to fish, you can eat for a lifetime," he said. "If I give you a fish you can eat just for a day."

Most of the children who tried the simulator were successful in making a "catch." Judging from the encouragement the fishers received from their instructors and peers, the Urban Fishing Program is not about competition, but about fun and education.

"It's just a sport," said Tyneshia, Mary Parchman's granddaughter. "It's fun. Everybody can do it, big or little."

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