BOB MAINDELLE: Free fishing program for military children resumes | Outdoor sports


First founded in 2009, the Soldiers ‘Kids Involved in Fishing Fun (SKIFF) program exists to provide free fishing opportunities to military children separated from their parents by their parents’ military duties.

Fishing trips ended last April when non-essential businesses in Texas were closed due to COVID-19, and, even after those restrictions were relaxed, families have been kept on the idea of ​​their children. spend time away from home.

Things are looking brighter for SKIFF in 2021. So far, the program has offered two local families all expense paid and professionally guided fishing trips this calendar year with several other children scheduled, and all before. the summer of public school. pause when SKIFF receives most of its requests.

The conditions for children to qualify for free travel in SKIFF are simple. A child must be 5 years of age or older and be separated from its parent due to that parent’s military obligations.

Many mistakenly assume that this means that a parent must be on a long overseas deployment, but it is not. Parents participating in field training exercises, temporary assignments, military training, National Training Center or Joint Readiness Center rotations and others are all eligible.

In addition, the program is also open to children of Gold Star families, as well as children of disabled veterans whose disabilities prevent them from taking their own children fishing.

SKIFF fishing trips are organized by boat year round on Belton and Stillhouse Hollow lakes. All fishing gear and safety gear are provided. Children should only arrive with appropriate clothing, sun protection, snacks and drinks. Those aged 17 and over must also have a valid fishing license.

The most recent recipients of the SKIFF trip were Willow and Athena Tripp of Fort Hood. The girls were accompanied by their mother, Ashley Patton.

The girls’ father, Sgt. Brian Tripp is currently away from Fort Hood for short-term training at Camp Atterbury, Indiana. Tripp, who has served for nine years, serves Soldiers by providing communication connectivity to remote locations.

Patton is a veteran herself, having served as a combat medic in the military. She and Tripp met while on active duty.

Patton heard about the SKIFF program through a post on the Fort Hood Area Events Facebook page.

As a mild, wet cold front crept into central Texas on Thursday, Patton arrived in Belton Lake around 4:30 p.m. after picking up her daughters from school.

As the main guide of the SKIFF program, I was there to greet the family, provide them with a safety briefing, adjust the equipment to the girls’ stature and help them succeed.

We started the crappie fishing trip with rods with fixed lengths of fishing line attached. We targeted small fish in shallow water with this simple approach and then added more complex layers as the trip continued.

At the end of the girls’ afternoon on the water, they were reading the sonar, using Maindelle’s custom all-purpose lures to fish vertically for white bass in water over 30 feet deep, and they did does an amazing job attracting, hooking and landing fish after fish.

In just over three hours, the sisters landed 62 fish, including 24 sunfish and 38 white bass.

Funding for the SKIFF program is generated by Austin Fly Fishers, an Austin-based fly fishing club. The Austin Fly Fishers have attracted other organizations to contribute to SKIFF’s cause, including the Sun City Chapter of Women Helping Others, the Sun City Rod and Gun Club, and the McBride Foundation.

Planning a SKIFF trip is as easy as calling 254-368-7411. Outings can be coordinated after school on weekdays or on Saturday mornings.

Since its inception, SKIFF has organized outings for 491 children, and these children have landed 12,480 fish, an average of more than 25 fish caught per child.

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