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It’s one of my fondest memories of the outdoors.

I couldn’t tell you exactly how old I was — around 11, I think — but I know I had enough wisdom to realize it was a big deal.

My grandfather took me fishing on the first day of trout season.

But this was more than hopping in the truck and heading to the stream just down the road. This was an adventure. We traveled across two counties with a boat in tow. For a young boy, the anticipation was nearly painful.

It’s been decades since we slipped that little john boat in the water, but I can still remember the joy as I slid into its middle seat and grabbed my rod. Many memories have come and gone, but that one’s staying for good. It’s too big to slip through the exit chiseled by time.

It’s anybody’s guess all that trip did for me, but no doubt it affected my life. In the years since, fishing has become a way of life. It’s been my passion, my ambition and even my job ever since.

As sportsmen, we should all feel compelled to do what my grandfather did so many years ago. We should yearn to get the youngest generation outdoors to spark a passion within them that will last a lifetime.

Izaak Walton League event: If you were around the grounds of York’s chapter of the Izaak Walton League last weekend, you saw that idea in action. Hundreds of children lined the East Branch of the Codorus Creek during the club’s annual children’s fishing derby. Every kid hoped to catch the big one, but if my suspicion is right, many of them were the ones that were hooked.

I watched as the action unfolded. Dads, moms and grandparents lined the banks, working to ensure their youngsters had the right bait in the right spot. Their sense of anticipation may have been even higher than the children’s.

Like the first few raindrops falling on an old metal roof, fish were reeled in at a random, yet steady pace. One here, one there … a big one down there. With each fish, a memory was gouged deep in a youngster’s brain.

I can’t help but think what the event — held on Mother’s Day weekend each year — did for some of those kids. We all know the challenges they face. School’s tough these days. Social pressures are immense. But I’ve seen the power of instilling a passion in youngsters. It changes lives.

Each of those fish at the end of the line easily could have been the magic wand that keeps a kid out of trouble. It could have been the spark that lit a fire that will burn a lifetime.

I tip my hat to the many volunteers at the Izaak Walton League. They spend countless hours raising trout and then stocking them in local waterways. But they don’t stop there. Far from it. They devote many more hours to ensuring those fish find the hook of as many folks as possible. That’s where their work really pays off. They’re changing lives.

They aren’t just stocking fish. They’re loading our streams with memories that will last a lifetime.

Andy Snyder writes about the outdoors for The York Dispatch. He can be reached at sports@yorkdispatch.com.

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