PRESQUE ISLE, Maine — After a long winter, few things say spring to outdoors enthusiasts like a good sportsmen’s show.
At the Presque Isle Fish and Game Club’s annual trade show at the University of Maine at Presque Isle on Saturday, hundreds of sports enthusiasts took in displays and demonstrations on everything from fly-tying to rock climbing.
This year organizers were targeting a very specific audience.
“We want to get the kids in here to see what it’s all about,” said Nick Archer, the show’s co-chairman. “Any kid that enjoys the outdoors doesn’t enjoy doing something wrong.”
Proceeds from the sportsmen’s show help fund programs at the University of Maine 4-H Camp and Learning Center at Bryant Pond.
“We want to take the kids outside,” Archer said. “The idea is to get off your butts and get out there to fish, hunt, bike, kayak, hike or whatever you enjoy.”
There were ample opportunities for young and old to learn about all those and more on Saturday.
Exhibits included booths on trapping, mountain biking, conservation, dog handling, kayaking and even composting toilets.
A specially built indoor trout pond had been stocked with about 250 fish earlier in the day, and David Spooner helped his son Lars, 2, and daughter Mikaela work on some casting skills.
“This is his first time fishing inside,” Spooner said as he held his son’s line out. “He’s been fishing with me before, but he doesn’t really have the temperament for it. He likes to run the reel.”
Spooner and his wife, Laurie, enjoy getting their family outdoors as a group, and they say northern Maine provides the perfect environment.
“There’s all kinds of good, clean fun in the state of Maine and great opportunities to get out and enjoy nature,” Spooner said. “When you live in Aroostook County, you just have to walk out your door.”
Scott Olsen, who runs the camp at Bryant Pond, said teaching youngsters good conservation practices is an investment in the state’s future.
“If we can get the kids out there and involved in all the natural resources Maine relies on, they can make some real connections,” Olsen said. “They get turned on by the outdoors before they get hooked on something else.”
Miranda Bragan, 8, of Presque Isle was getting hooked on fly-tying with the help of Nancy Taylor of the Kennebec Valley chapter of Trout Unlimited.
“Our goal is to teach young people how to tie flies and then ask them to bring a buddy next year to learn,” Taylor said. “They are the next generation of the guardians of the streams, and we want them to keep conservation going.”
For her part, Bragan said the lesson from Taylor was fun, and she promised to bring a friend next year.
At the nearby indoor archery range, Jerome Richard, president of the Maine Bowhunters’ Association, was overjoyed at the number of young people trying their hands with a bow and arrow.
“A lot of kids sit around at home playing video games and get to be couch potatoes,” Richard said as he coached 12-year-old Ryder Soucy of Presque Isle on the proper methods of bow handling. “Teaching them something like archery is a great way to get them outdoors.”
Getting them outside is what it’s all about, Richard said.
“They don’t have to be out there hunting,” he said. “They can be out there on a bike, in a kayak or a canoe. We’re not here to make bow hunters out of them.”
Tenley Bennett, owner of Fish River Lodge in Eagle Lake, said he hoped visitors to the show took a bit of Aroostook County home with them.
“It’s a great place to bring the family,” Bennett said. “They can learn some new skills here and see some options for summer vacations.”