I spent the weekend getting certified as a Passport to Fishing (PTF) instructor, and am impressed with how streamlined—and organized—the process is. It’s offered by the Recreational Boating & Fishing Foundation’s “Take Me Fishing” campaign, and is a popular alternative to the Hooked On Fishing—Not On Drugs (HOFNOD) program that kicked off nationally two decades ago. I served as one of the first HOFNOD instructor-instructors, traveling the nation to meet with school system administrators and recreation departments to teach the instructors how to implement the fishing program and integrate it into their physical education or science curriculums. HOFNOD is quite complex and can be intimidating in its length. Passport is just the opposite, and I think that is why it’s been accepted so broadly and has been so successful.
With PTF, an event can be conducted in less than two hours and with only five instructors. The lead (certified) instructor simply organizes the students into four equal parts and assigns an assistant instructor to lead each group through four themed stations: Casting, Fishing Knots and Rigging, Fish Habitat and Handling, and Local Information. Students spend about 20 minutes at each station and as they are all rotating through the program, the instruction takes a couple of hours at most to complete. I have a degree in Education, and I know from hands-on experience that those 20-minute time blocks and two-hour maximum time limits are huge in terms of keeping students focused and moving through the program. By adding two more stations—and related boating content—PTF becomes the Passport to Fishing and Boating program for those who want to include boating and boat-handling in the curriculum.
PTF is easy for the instructors to implement as well, with a simple lesson plan available for each station with clear objectives and interesting exercises to tackle. And speaking of tackle, there are high-quality spin-cast rod and reel kits available for free to award each student who completes all four PTF stations to successfully pass the course.
What’s more, there is money available to help fund PTF events, with grants from the Sport Fish Restoration Program and the National Shooting Sports Foundation’s Step Outside program, as well as local grants made available through state fishing and boating agencies. If you, a club or other organization would like to offer fishing instruction, perhaps to open a fishing derby or event, Passport to Fishing gets my nod as a simple, effective way to introduce fishing to that all-important next generation of anglers.
Image by Dan Armitage