The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) honored three young freshwater anglers, a team of two and an individual, with plaques for special accomplishments at the FWC’s public meeting in Lakeland Thursday.
“Enthusiastic young anglers like these are representative of the Next Generation that Cares – those who will help promote active outdoor lifestyles that connect them with nature and encourage conservation stewardship,” Tom Champeau, director of the FWC’s Division of Freshwater Fisheries Management said. “Because they are role models to other kids, of all ages, the FWC is proud to highlight their accomplishments.”
High school bass fishing champions
The FWC recognized two freshmen from Bartow High School – Kaitlyn Boswell and Cole Schmucker – for winning the 2013 Florida Student Angler Federation State Championship. The tournament included high school teams from 41 schools across Florida.
Boswell and Schmucker won the championship on Lake Tohopekaliga, Kissimmee, earning a spot in the southern regional tournament this fall. Both students maintain excellent grade-point averages in school and hope to continue their competetive fishing careers at the University of Florida, winner of past Collegiate national championships.
The FWC is strengthening its partnership with FLW Outdoors and The Bass Federation (TBF), who sponsor the Student Angler Federation Florida High School Fishing State Championship and promote recreational fishing and conservation nationally. FLW Outdoors and TBF offer a national program for high schools that is established in 48 states and sanctioned in Illinois and Kentucky high schools. The FWC is laying the groundwork to incorporate bass fishing clubs into the Florida High School Athletic Association’s package of sanctioned sports.
Adrian “Lunker Louie” Echols was also recognized for his outstanding accomplishments as a young angler. He has joined the FWC’s TrophyCatch Club, and earned three major Big Catch recognitions.
“Louie is an excellent student, and his passion for fishing and the outdoors is an excellent example for kids getting outdoors and leading healthy lifestyles,” Champeau said. “We are proud to have Louie on the cover of our upcoming 2013-14 Florida Freshwater Fishing Regulations.”
Echols has his own popular Facebook page, titled “Fishing the Highlands with Louie.” Echols caught his first bass at age 3. He is currently one of the youngest members of the FWC’s TrophyCatch Lunker Club (see TrophyCatchFlorida.com), and he has numerous recognitions from the agency’s Big Catch Program, including Specialist, Master and Elite Angler Awards (see MyFWC.com/BigCatch). In earning his Elite Angler Certificate, Echols caught qualifying fish from 10 different species and earned his Bass Specialist recognition by catching more than five qualifying largemouth bass.
He also is the star of an episode of “Lunkerville Television,” titled “Louie, Louie,” which aired on World Fishing Network. He’s been featured in Field and Stream magazine as well as twice in Gaff Magazine and in the FWC’s Fish Busters’ Bulletin. Featured on the cover for the Highland County Lake Guide, Echols enjoys introducing his friends to fishing.
The FWC commends these young athletes and scholars for their conservation ethic and setting a positive example for their fellow students.
Many law enforcement agencies practice community-oriented policing philosophies. Now, more than ever, officers are getting involved in their communities, reaching out to youth to promote positive, healthy behaviors and safe places to live and recreate.
Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) officers take this part of their job to heart. In May they interacted with more than 5,000 kids across the state, participating in various youth events and activities.
In addition to protecting Florida’s natural resources and people, FWC officers work to ensure that people can enjoy the Florida outdoors for years to come. Part of that includes educating and inspiring youth to care about conservation.
The Florida Youth Conservation Centers Network (FYCCN), coordinated by the FWC and the Wildlife Foundation of Florida, is a statewide network of sustainable places where youth and their families can participate in traditional outdoor activities and safely share experiences that inspire lifelong support for fish and wildlife conservation.
The FYCCN’s goal is woven into the expectations of FWC officers as well. Whether attending FYCCN events, hunter safety classes, fishing clinics, wildlife festivals and career days at schools, they are encouraged and expected to participate in youth events when they can. They’ll often bring equipment, like all-terrain-vehicles and airboats, or even their K-9 partners.
The 5,000 children that benefited from interacting with FWC officers last month learned safe ways to enjoy recreating outdoors, how to properly interact with fish and wildlife and about the responsibility that both they and the officers have to protect those resources.
FWC officers fulfill a vital role in the lives of our youth and make a difference in creating the next generation that cares.
For more information about the FYCCN, or to find upcoming summer camps and youth events in your area, visit FYCCN.org.