Photo courtesy of Terrence L. Fitzpatrick
Makenzie Booker holds up his catch with his father, Russ Ames, in this 2007 photo. The ice-fishing event at Pickerel Pond draws hundreds of people, although only those under 16 can fish. Kids who have never experienced it before often discover lifelong pastimes. This year’s event is scheduled for Saturday, Jan. 21 from 8 a.m. to 3 p.m., with a rain date of Feb. 4.
Weekly Photo by David M. Fitzpatrick
Jordan Roy, 16, is in her third year as president of the MYFGA youth board. She got involved after participating in the annual ice-fishing day, and after her father became involved with the adult board. As president, she has a vote on the adult board. Jordan takes her responsibility seriously, and appreciates serving as a role model for young girls in what is often perceived as male-dominated activities.
By David M. Fitzpatrick
Of the Weekly Staff
Every January, something special happens on Pickerel Pond outside of Milford. Families converge there, as many as 300 people, but only those under 16 are allowed to fish the 10-acre, kids-only pond. Thanks to the volunteer efforts of the Maine Youth Fish and Game Association, they spend this Family Fishing Day ice fishing. Everything is free, from the bait to the traps, and MYFGA even feeds everybody — usually hamburgers and hot dogs, with plenty of hot cocoa to go around. The hope is that the kids will develop a lifelong pastime.
“Our mission is to try to get kids more interested in the outdoors,” said Travis Roy, vice president of MYFGA. “We really encourage people to bring out their children, their grandchildren, the neighbor’s kids, whatever they want.”
In the wake of a decade of successful youth programs, MYFGA has just launched a capital campaign to raise $150,000. The money will go towards doubling the size of its lodge, which gets pretty crowded during that January ice-fishing event and summer camp classes, and constructing a second garage for storage. They’re about $35,000 into it with a spring deadline, so they have their work cut out for them.
“You can have all the dreams in the world, but if you don’t have the backing, it’s not going to happen,” said Roy.
Luckily, there has been backing so far. MYFGA was established in 2001 and, using the land at Pickerel Pond owned by International Paper, began with a mission to educate youth about the importance of good outdoor stewardship. The program began with long-term goals, but met them faster than it could have expected. First, when Northern Log Homes discovered the group was aiming to build a lodge within 10 years, the company donated an entire home package; the National Guard and local construction companies volunteered time to build it, and the Stephen & Tabitha King Foundation donated $15,000 for the electricity generator. Public support has continued since.
MYFGA offers many free events for youths year-round, and it also provides extremely inexpensive $75-a-week summer camps, one for the younger set and one for the older. MYFGA is considering adding a second younger-set camp due to increased demand, and the ice-fishing event has become so popular that the group may soon add a second one.
Nobody knows MYFGA’s success better than Travis Roy’s daughter, Jordan. The 16-year-old fished with her father and grandfather as a young child, and began hunting a few years ago. It was about 2005 when her father first got involved with MYFGA and she did the ice-fishing event. “I liked it a lot,” she said. “My dad was helping me and the guys were teaching me how to do it. I got involved with it a lot.”
Her father joined the MYFGA board of directors and began taking her to board meetings. At age 10, at first she thought they were more like “bored” meetings. But she began to pay attention to what was actually going on and learned why they were important.
“I really listened to what they were talking about. And then I thought ‘I like all this stuff, so I might as well get involved, too.'”
She joined MYFGA’s youth board and has been its president for three years. Her role entitles her to a vote on the adult board, ensuring the youth voice is heard. Now 16, she can’t fish Pickerel Pond this year, but she’ll be there helping the young kids. “I really enjoy seeing the kids that go out there,” she said. “I know how it felt for me going for the first time.”
Jordan understands the importance of being a role model for other girls. “I hope that they grow up and defeat that myth of ‘just the boys’ being the ones that do the outdoor stuff,” she said. “I feel like it’s really important to those little girls out there that, ‘Hey, this is a female that’s helping out with this,'” she said.
The upcoming ice-fishing event is slated for Jan. 21 from 8 a.m. – 3 p.m., with a Feb. 4 rain date. If you’re interested in how you can help MYFGA, visit www.MaineYouthFishAndGame.org.