By Don Manley
Kyla Prusha may have discovered a lifelong hobby before she’s reached first grade if her recent success in the waters off Goodland is any indication.
The 5-year-old Naples resident’s skills as an angler were on display on that balmy morning at Coon Key Marina, site of Walker Marine’s third annual Kid’s Fishing Clinic.
As always, members of the Marco Sportfishing Club provided instruction in casting, knot tying, fish identification and good angler ethics, as well as imparting fundamental saltwater fishing skills to youths between the ages of 5 and 15.
Kyla outdid the six other children who participated in the clinic by catching the most fish, eight – count ‘em eight – mangrove snappers. Her skills landed her the grand prize, a new fishing rod.
“I thought it was really fun,” she said of the clinic, as her father, Brian Prusha, helped her fish some more after the clinic was over. They were joined by his father, Steve Prusha, and Kyla’s sister, Brielle, 9.
Brian Prusha said his family does some fishing, but he brought his daughters to the clinic so they could learn even more about the sport.
“It’s for the education, so they can understand fishing and tying knots and the importance of size limits and putting fish back,” he added.
A short distance away, Kaden Krishna, 13, of Naples, was also still trying his hand with a rod and reel. He’s been fishing for the last eight years.
“I really like fishing, but I’ve never really go saltwater fishing anymore, so my dad found this,” he said. “I had a great time. It was great coming here.”
Kaden, who was joined by his father Mahesh and his brother, Cameron, 9, also gained some important knowledge
“I learned what I was doing wrong with my knots,” he said. “I learned how to (bait) a shrimp better because I used to lose fish and now I know how to hook it on better.”
Tony Saputo of the Marco Sportfishing Club said that after receiving his instruction, he took the youths out to Coon Key’s parking lot to practice casting. After that, it was time to fish.
“We feel these young kids will be the future Marco Fishing Club members,” he said. “There’s nothing better than to see the smile on a child’s face when they catch a fish.”
Walker Marine Group conducts a community event for youths or adults each quarter at one the company’s six locations in Collier and Lee counties, said Valentina Cerminara, director of marketing and promotion for Walker Marine.
“Each kid caught at least four or five fish,” she said. “Seeing the kids happy, that’s the No. 1 goal. They all took home great skills that they can use forever.”