Members of the Missouri Western State University football team joined the Missouri Department of Conservation on July 24 for a fishing skills event at the university.

The Griffons and TJ Peacher, the conservation department’s outreach and education supervisor, spent two hours giving fishing lessons at the south fishing pond on campus. Peacher said that the hope is to hold more fishing events there in the future.

“It may not be this year, but when we start this back up next summer, we have a really good plan to do more of this,” Peacher said.

Missouri Western defensive lineman Brandon Johnson and Kelsey Gillenwater helped Peacher lead the fishing lessons. Johnson and Gillenwater are both interns for the Missouri Department of Conservation and community education assistants.

“I needed an internship to graduate and my teacher recommended that I do this,” Gillenwater said. “He thought that I could do something good with education and learn from it.”

Both Johnson and Gillenwater are in the wildlife management program. Johnson said the outdoors have always been a passion of his.

“I’ve always loved to fish and hunt, so I figured it was best to do an internship in that field,” Johnson said. “Plus, you can’t ever go wrong going fishing and getting paid for it.”

Gillenwater and Johnson cover the basics in the class that spans four lessons. The class covers equipment, tying and baiting, Missouri fish, regulations and lure use.

A problem with drainage led to the pond losing all of its water a few years back. This led to a renovation of the not-often-used pond. Peacher said these types of events could lead to more fishing opportunities for the students on campus.

“The thing is that whether you know how to fish or not, you want to go,” Peacher said.

The department was pleased with the number of children who came to the event. Gillenwater said it was close to double what they had expected.

Both Missouri Western students said they would like to see their passion for fishing passed on to their fellow students. They believe that another accessible pond would help get more students fishing.

“It would allow people to get outside and have a reason to go outside,” Gillenwater said. “They wouldn’t have to travel to find another pond or lake.”

Johnson echoed that statement.

“I would love it if it were accessible to all college students,” Johnson said. “Because living in these dorms, there’s a pond right there that you can’t fish, but you can look at it. It would be a blast and give us something to do.”

Anthony Crane can be reached at anthonytcrane@gmail.com. Follow him on Twitter @crane_anthony

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