TAMPA — About 300 youngsters will get to fish every day for two weeks this summer using equipment donated by the Guy Harvey Ocean Foundation.
The fishing camps aim to teach conservation and sportsmanship, and generally get children outdoors to enjoy a pastime for which the Tampa Bay area is well-known.
The Guy Harvey Saltwater Fishing Camps will take place at E.G. Simmons Park in Ruskin and the Upper Tampa Bay Park in Tampa. They are open to boys and girls ages 9 through 15. The camps, sponsored by the Hillsborough County’s Parks, Recreation and Conservation Department, include daily fishing instruction, educational seminars with charter captains and guides, plus outings. The camps cost $120 per child, and some income-based scholarships are available. Online camp registration begins May 7.
“This summer camp will be our third year,” said Dave Ramirez, recreation program supervisor for Hillsborough County. “It is something we brought up and tried, and it has been a success ever since. My motto is ‘Getting kids back outdoors.’” Already, he said, he oversees nine fishing clubs established at county after-school program sites.
The camps are what Ramirez refers to as Fishing Basics 101.
“We’ll fish every morning, and I have scheduled local captains and fishing guides to do seminars with the kids. We will also teach camping skills, canoeing, kayaking and bird watching.”
Field trips include a kayaking trip to Tampa Electric Co.mpany’s new Technology Park in Apollo Beach, which has a winding stream leading to Tampa Bay, and a trip to Weedon Island State Preserve, an expansive marine ecosystem just across the Gandy Bridge in St. Petersburg. The big adventure, Ramirez said, will be a five-hour deep-sea fishing trip — for an optional $33 — out of Johns Pass in Pinellas County.
The Guy Harvey affiliation is a huge benefit, Ramirez said.
“We are buying quality supplies with that (foundation) money. It’s going to help with everything from rods and reels to bait and equipment — even cast nets.”
And having the Guy Harvey name on the camps is a plus, he said. Guy Harvey is a marine wildlife artist and conservationist whose operations partially are based in South Florida.
Steve Stock, president of Guy Harvey, is a Tampa native.
“Our foundation, which is in its sixth year, is slowly but surely growing the amount of money we’ve raised and the amount we are giving back,” Stock said. “In prior years we were mostly funding research into tuna and sharks.”
These days, the ocean foundation is focusing more on young adults “to get them interested in fishing, which we think is a very healthy sport, and teach them, along the way, about issues involving giving back to the resources, like catch and release,” Stock said. “You don’t have to kill all the fish you catch.”
When Harvey agreed to have his name placed on a scratch-off Florida Lottery game, it was with the understanding that all of the royalties would go back to the state for educational outreach, Stock said.
“We want to be consistent with the lottery’s mission to help with education.”
To register a child for one of the camps, visit www.HillsboroughCounty.org/Parks. For information, call the Hillsborough County Parks, Recreation and Conservation Department at (813) 635-3500.