Commentary by Estus Smith, American Legion Post 1982
ANSBACH, Germany (June 15, 2017) – Going fishing with our young children is one of the most natural things in the world. Many parents start when the youngsters are old enough to show some interest in trying to catch a fish.
For Soldiers stationed in Germany, things are a little different.
The kids cannot legally fish (i.e. get a fishing license) until the age of 16. There are provisions for younger kids, age 10 to 16, to fish under the direct supervision of a parent with a fishing license, but how do the military parents get their fishing license? This process is more difficult in Germany than in the U.S.
American Legion Post 1982 here wanted to give the opportunity to go fishing with children to the local Soldiers and their families. Fortunately the U.S. Army Garrison Ansbach manages a small body of water, appropriately named Soldiers Lake, on our installation near the Urlas shopping center. The Legionnaires coordinated with Family and Morale, Welfare and Recreation’s Outdoor Recreation to allow children to fish with their parents.
The initial coordination for this event started about five years ago, but now the Kids Fishing Day has become a tradition for the garrison community. We conducted our first Kids Fishing Day of this year June 3, during which approximately 80 children and 70 parents came out and fished.
To keep it all legal, Fred Lane, hunting and fishing coordinator with Outdoor Recreation, coordinated to have several licensed fishermen present at the lake to assist the young fishermen and -women. Outdoor Rec provided the fishing tackle and the bait. They also stocked the lake with trout before the event. Lane and his assistants were very supportive.
The lake house, situated directly on the lake with its grill and tables, was used for preparing and serving the food and as a place to sit and eat in the shade. The shade was appreciated, as the day was very warm by German standards.
Post 1982 supports two days of kids fishing on the lake each summer, usually on the first Saturday in June and in August. In addition to donuts, water and soft drinks in the morning, veterans provided a free lunch of hamburgers, chips, soft drinks and fresh fruit pieces to the children and parents.
For this event, Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 10708 assisted with providing water, charcoal and soft drinks, and helping with the grill and serving lines at lunch. Fishing medals were provided to each child who participated, whether they had nabbed a fish or not. This year, the local Service Credit Union also provided insulated lunch bags as gifts for each child.
As can be seen in the photos, the kids loved it. Parents also enjoyed the opportunity to spend a morning in the fresh air with the kids – without television, computer games or smartphones as distractions.
There were also valuable lessons learned by the kids. Worms and maggots must be put on the hooks. Not every fisherman catches a fish. Once caught, the fish must be killed and then cleaned. Parents get to answer lots of questions from the little ones.
“Overall, the Kids Fishing Day was a great success,” said Susan Houston, American Legion Post 1982 commander. “The weather was warm and sunny, the fish were biting, and the kids had a great time.
“Parents were happy to spend a Saturday morning with their kids in a different atmosphere,” Houston added. “Veterans from the Legion and VFW, as well as MWR reps, were happy to work together and provide a successful event for the local community. It was a win-win situation for everyone involved.”