The Weekly - July 30, 2020 - Cover3

Backstory
Hooked on Fishing-Not Drugs
kids haul in a
striped bass at
the Jersey Shore.

Net Gains

Liz Jackson has grown New Jersey's Hooked on Fishing-Not on Drugs program
into an ongoing and positive way of looking at the world for both the kids who
participate and the adults who teach them the lifelong pleasures of catching fish.

CO U R T E SY L I Z JAC KS O N

BORN AND RAISED IN HARLEM, LIZ JACKSON WAS THE IDEAL PERSON

to coordinate the reboot of New Jersey's Hooked on Fishing-Not on Drugs
program, which passed the state legislature in 2012. The senior biologist for
the New Jersey Division of Fish and Wildlife has an intimate understanding of
each end of the phrase. Every summer when she was a child, her parents sent
her to a six-week sleepaway camp, where she found a deep connection to the
natural world and the joys of angling in particular.
Back in New York City, she spent time at a rehab facility on 125th Street,
where her mother worked as a fiscal manager. There, she witnessed the cost
of addiction firsthand and learned that many of those afflicted had deep,
beautiful talents. "And they were really neat people; I learned how to play
chess with them, how to paint stained glass, and play backgammon. These
people were just suffering the disease of addiction," Jackson says.
Hooked on Fishing-Not on Drugs had been a solid program in the Garden
State in a past iteration in the early 2000s, but not one that aimed to build
something that would last beyond the days the kids were in the program
itself. When dedicated stakeholders pushed to revive the program and the
state tasked the Division of Fish and Wildlife to administer it in every county,

Jackson stepped up to run it. She drew on the lessons of her youth and set
out to make it a program that would give kids a lifelong passion-and a real
alternative to the dangers of addiction.
"Some of the kids have never been to the ocean before," she says. "Some
want to try kayak fishing. Some just want to go crabbing. Some want to learn
how to build their own fly rods. I provide supplemental professional development for the adults to see other things that the kids might want to do."
The key to the program's success has been Jackson's insistence that the
adult teachers must attend a weekend training session. Also, she has recruited passionate anglers like Brian Rice, the owner of Jersey Devil Sportfishing
in Fair Haven, who will take kids on weeklong intensives that delve into conservation and saltwater ecology. Other leaders are school resource officers,
teachers, and 4H organizers.
While COVID-19 has shut down schools and the program, it has not
stopped Jackson. "I'm putting together a virtual training," she says. "A couple
of adults want to start a program in their schools this fall. They're going to
submit videos of rigging the line and catching fish. They're going to have to
demonstrate what they can do." -Doug Schnitzspahn

OUTDOOR RETAILER SUMMER 2020 / THE WEEKLY 29


https://njfishandwildlife.net/hofnodnj.htm

The Weekly - July 30, 2020

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