About 90 boys and girls aged 5 to 15 years spent a sunny Saturday morning at Lovelace Park on July 12 learning the basic skills of fishing: baiting a hook, casting a line – and waiting. For most, the payoff came within a few minutes, as a willing bluegill or channel catfish took the bait then waited – perhaps not as patiently – to be released from the hook and returned to the water.

This catch-and-release program, part of the Illinois Department of Natural Resources Access to Fishing Program, is free to all children under 15 accompanied by an adult. The program at Lovelace Park continues every Saturday through the end of September. In addition to fishing instruction, children are provided with a rod and reel to use that day. No fishing license is required for children under 15.

Karen Taira, Ecology Center coordinator, said the program attracts about 80 children each week. “We had 84 [kids] by 10:30, so I’m guessing we had about 170 people. We’ve had good fishing: bluegill and channel and a couple of reports of bass.” She said fishing is better earlier in the day: “By about 11 o’clock, the fish are onto us.”