New Smyrna Beach, Florida,
09:22 AM

An Unforgettable Fish!

Boating adventure turns students into Academic Anglers

It’s a memorable day for 11-year-old Gabriel Brown. For the first time in his life, he’s going fishing. “I’m learning lots of neat things about the water!” He grinned. “I even learned one full grown oyster can filter up to 50 gallons of water a day!” A big fish and a big smile! Students learn the importance of water safety with the help of a nonprofit organization called Academic Anglers.

Gabriel is one of many children setting sail on the Atlantic coast to fish, learn and explore. Not even the Florida sun can compete with the bright smiles on their faces.

"We want to help students reduce their fear and anxiety in respect to activities near the water,” said State Farm Agent Stan Harrison. “And we want them to have fun.”

The chance to sail out of the classroom and into the ocean is part of a program called Academic Anglers. The not-for-profit organization located in Melbourne, Fla., provides hands on boating and fishing experiences to children. An experienced fisherman, Harrison has volunteered with Academic Anglers since 2008. He’s led countless fishing clinics - sharing his passion for marine life and water safety with students.

“It’s a joy to watch them learn,” he said. “Through fishing and boating courses, children are exposed to new ways of thinking and gain more respect for the environment.”

Fish Facts and Ocean Fun

The Saturday class begins at the Marine Discovery Center. There, students learn about aquatic life – including how fish, plants and animals thrive in the water. “Did you know horseshoe crabs have eight legs AND they can flip themselves over with their tails?” Malik Harley beamed. “I also learned an octopus has three hearts and nine brains!”

Later that day, a member of the Coast Guard showed the class how to use professional flotation devices to stay safe in the water. Students also learned how to identify marine life, tie fishing knots using a large hook and rope, and cast a line.

“We want to expand their horizons and attract more children to the outdoor world,” said Academic Anglers Fishing Team President Charlie Roberts. “Seeing students gaining valuable experience outdoors - away from TV, computers and gaming systems is really rewarding.”

Making a Splash

That afternoon, students cast their lines in the water…steered the boat…and the best part? They caught lots of fish – including sea bass, sea grunt and red snapper which can weigh up to 50 pounds and live more than 50 years. The students also learned the importance of catch and release.

“I really enjoyed the fishing clinic with my twin girls, Jade and Jada,” said mother Patrice Smith. “We learned about different types of crabs, stingrays, turtles – and I am so grateful we now know how to fish!”

State Farm is a proud partner of Academic Anglers and its commitment to environmental education. Through the years, the fishing clinics have helped at-risk students stay out of trouble, excel in school and give back to their communities. Many of its first participants are now college graduates.

“There’s a sea of possibilities out there,” said Stan. “Success starts by branching out – or in this case, making that first cast.”

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