Fish with a WCO events will allow families to fish together, with help as needed.
Photo: PA Fish and Boat Commission
The weather might be – even should be – better this time around.
Shoot, it can’t be much worse.
Last September, Pennsylvania Fish and Boat Commission waterways conservation officers in the southwest corner of the state held their inaugural “Fish with a WCO” event for children. It took place at Twin Lakes Park in Westmoreland County.
“We pretty much had a monsoon,” said conservation officer Matt Kauffman with a laugh. “It wasn’t good.”
Not surprisingly, only about six kids showed up.
Kauffman is hoping to beat that this year. By a lot.
This year’s “Fish with a WCO” event in the southwest is set for 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. on June 15 at Keystone State Park, near New Alexandria in Westmoreland. Kauffman is hoping to draw 300 youngsters and their families.
“We figured Father’s Day weekend, what better time to spend time with family fishing?” Kauffman said.
“We didn’t want to step on Father’s Day itself, so that people could still do their thing. But otherwise this will be a great opportunity to get out and just fish as a family.”
Commission officers in each of the state’s six regions – that’s how the commission breaks things down – will do a “Fish with a WCO” day at some point.
Mike Parker, communications director of the commission, said officers in the northwest will assist with a mentored youth panfish event on June 1 at Linesville in Crawford County. The commission is hosting another event June 22 in the northeast.
Events in the state’s other regions are in the works, he added.
But as for the one in the southwest, Kauffman said wants to send every child home having caught at least one fish.
So officers will have loaner roads, tackle and bait for those who need it. They – together with state park rangers — will offer assistance and expertise as needed, too.
The event will go on rain or shine, with activities centered around the boat launch and rental.
And it’s all free. All children must be accompanied by an adult, but the requirement for those 16 and older to have a fishing license is being waived for the duration of the program.
Preregister by June 10.
“Just for the simple fact that we know how much bait to set aside. But we’re going to let people walk in that day, too,” Kauffman said.
Registration can be done at https://register-ed.com/events/view/143593.
Another benefit of the program, Kauffman hopes, is that children will have their first experience with a conservation officer be a positive one.
For that and a lot of reasons, he’s really looking forward to this event. It’s going to be an annual thing, he said.
Some things may change. There’s been discussion about hosting it even earlier next year, to coincide with a trout stocking. Officers are also debating the merits of having it at one location year after year or moving it around between different locations.
Those are debates for another day, though, Kauffman said.
Right now, he’s just hoping lots of families will bring their kids to Keystone for a fun day of fishing.
“I’m hoping it will be a really special day for a lot of people,” Kauffman said.
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