ENFIELD — You are never too old to learn how to fish.

“We’ve taught youngsters beginning at age 6 and others who want to try their hand at fishing who are in their 80s and 90s,” said Justin Wiggins, a fishery biologist who oversees the Connecticut Aquatic Resources Education, CARE, program for the CT Department of Energy and Environmental Protection, or DEEP.

Fishing season is in full swing and on June 8, CT DEEP Fisheries Division, Enfield Community Police and Enfield Recreation will offer FISH with CARE, a free learning opportunity at Freshwater Pond in Enfield.

The event, set to take place from 9:30 a.m. to noon, features volunteer state certified fishing coaches who will teach participants how to get started fishing safely, legally and successfully.

“Fishing safely involves learning how to properly operate your rod and reel and how to cast, which we will demonstrate using a plastic plug instead of a sharp hook. Legally you must have the proper permit to fish, and you need to be aware that different water bodies have their own regulations and the same goes for keeping your catch. Different species have their own restrictions. A freshwater largemouth bass, for example, must be at least 12 inches long and you can keep six of them a day, while trout have no size limit, and you can keep five per day. As for fishing successfully, that depends on having the appropriate-size equipment — rods, reels and hooks and line, as well as bait and tackle to catch the freshwater fish you find in lakes and ponds around Connecticut,” Wiggins said.

Among the variety of catches awaiting participants at Freshwater Pond include sunfish, brown bullhead, catfish, channel largemouth bass, yellow perch and trout.

No gear, no worries, Wiggins noted.

The CARE program will supply everything needed for participation in the event free of charge.

“The great thing about Connecticut is the diversity of places to fish. There are plenty of opportunities close to home no matter where you live in the state, whether you are fishing for trophy striped bass in Long Island Sound or driving 20 minutes away from home and fishing in our many pristine ponds and streams,” Wiggins said.

The minimum age to participate is 6 and all children must have a parent or guardian alongside them. All participants ages 16 and older are required to have a valid 2024 inland fishing license. Anglers under age 16 are encouraged to register for a free Youth Fishing Passport. Licenses and permits are available at portal.ct.gov/deep/fishing/ct-fishing.

“For middle-aged folks who join us to learn how to fish, food is often a factor. In addition to enjoying the outdoors and nature, they want to have a connection to their food and bring a fish home to the dinner table,” Wiggins said.

The CARE program offers a variety of “Learn to Fish” classes which often include a trip to a local fishing site, as well as a variety of events year-round for Connecticut anglers. Fishing events are designed for adults ages 16 and older, as well as families with children 6 years old and above.

The CT Department of Energy and Environmental Protections Fisheries Division — Connecticut Aquatic Resources Education program has been teaching beginners of all ages about the wonders of fish and fishing since 1986.

The CARE program is funded through the Sport Fish Restoration, SFR, Act monies, which is a law that collects taxes on motorboat fuels, excise taxes on fishing equipment from manufacturers, and import duties on yachts and pleasure boats. Monies are deposited into a national trust fund administered by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, who then awards grants to state fish and wildlife agencies so they can improve fishing in their state. SFR grants pay for up to 75% of project costs, while the state agency is obligated to pay 25%. CARE volunteer time is documented and used as in-kind match for the DEEP share of the SFR grant cost, enabling CARE to function with no state funding.

Space for FISH with CARE at Freshwater Pond is limited.

For more information about classes and the variety of fishing opportunities in Connecticut, or the register for the June event, visit portal.ct.gov/deep/fishing/ct-fishing.

Keith J. O’Connor
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