Angling for a Healthy Future
Since 2006, the Florida Fishing Academy has delivered a highly celebrated, custom-designed fishing education and life skills program to Palm Beach County elementary, middle and high schools students. At its heart, the Angling For a Healthy Future curriculum is an environmental awareness initiative that teaches children – tomorrow’s boaters, anglers and environmental stewards – to enjoy Florida’s fragile marine resources in a way that preserves the ecosystem for generations to come. Our program also arms students with the tools and knowledge to resist the temptations of the streets and to gain a richer appreciation for our local waters. Some even use the lessons and skills they develop to pursue jobs in the marine industries.
Charting a Course in the Marine Industries
After completing Angling for a Healthy Future, our high school students take Charting a Course in the Marine Industries. With this course, high school students receive extensive vocational fishing education, as well as post-secondary preparation and support designed to prepare them for the workforce or college. Students also learn how to mentor younger students, teach our program, navigate a vessel, chart an open-water course, compete in fishing tournaments, design and build rods, repair reels, build lures and, if interested, become a certified Red Cross lifeguard. Many of these advanced students serve as FFA camp counselors, and they work with our community partners through our on-the-job training initiative.
Riviera Beach Community Boating Program
The Riviera Beach Community Boating Program began as a pilot program in 2011 and continues today with the support of the city Community Redevelopment Agency (CRA). Every Riviera Beach resident who attends the program does so through scholarships provided by CRA grants. The program offers water sports instruction, summer camps and deep-sea fishing camps. The water sports curriculum instructs students on proper and safe boating, kayaking, fishing and sailing practices via Saturday classes. Students then practice what they learned during week-long deep-sea summer camps aboard one of several FFA fishing boats, or on community event days hosted at the Riviera Beach Marina.
This classroom-based program has not yet been launched. But once it does, our students will use microscopes to examine micro-organisms from live rock, test water samples and study tidal currents. Guided by Florida Fishing Academy instructors, they will dissect a fish, squid or other marine life, examining the biological composition of a fish’s eyeballs, gills, scales, bones and vertebrae, which can be useful in identifying not only the species but also the age of a fish. They will explore a working model of Florida’s watershed, the effects of pollution and how it relates to the marine-life food chain. They will also explore the local marine habitat and study Florida’s oceans wonders, aboard our partner’s 49-passenger, Coast Guard-inspected, handicapped-accessible catamaran. Each class also receives a strong dose of instruction on character building, family bonding, leadership opportunities and other life lessons.
Wheelchair-Accessible Boating Program
In 2015, the FFA opened all-new access to the ocean for people with special needs, especially youth and disabled veterans dependent on a wheelchair, with the exclusive use of a brand-new, custom-designed, 49-passenger, handicapped-accessible fishing boat and 11 specially designed SeaSpi snorkeling water scooters. The scooters are similar to a Jet Ski, except they have an electric motor and a glass bottom. These unique vessels are driven with hand controls, much like a motorized wheelchair. The scooters allow for almost anyone with special needs to explore the magnificent underwater world while simply cruising the water surface. The FFA also has a wheelchair-accessible kayak launch on a floating dock located at the Riviera Beach Marina.
Fish Identification Snorkeling Trips
This class is taught exclusively by boat, the recently launched Thea Marie, a 49-passenger, Coast Guard-inspected, handicapped-accessible hybrid catamaran now docked at the Riviera Beach Marina. Students and their chaperones ride to various snorkeling locations off the shores of Palm Beach County, particularly off Peanut Island. At the direction of FFA guides and instructors, students identify various species of fish and other marine life. While snorkeling, students study the manatee’s habitat and plant-based food sources, and get a chance to see manatees from a safe distance during their prime migration season in November and December. Since many manatees bear propeller scars from dangerous collisions with boats, these sightings serve as a stark reminder of the great care that must be taken while boating during manatee season. Younger students also explore the effects of water pollution and its impact on the manatee.
Since 2006, the FFA has delivered signature snorkeling, kayaking, sailing and fishing programs in a local summer camp and sleep-away camp setting. We offer camps in Riviera Beach and in Delray Beach, spending the first day reviewing camp rules and expectations, with campers getting to know their surroundings and filling out a survey to demonstrate their level of knowledge and skills.
Campers attending the week-long Boating Camp use the FFA’s fleet of kayaks, jon boats, sailboats and SeaSpis (electric-powered, glass-bottom watercraft that resemble Jet Skis) in learning these valuable lessons:
- Introduction to Boating: Lessons on how to operate and navigate the various vessels
- Boat Safety: Tips shared by FFA camp instructors
- Certification: Review boating safety workbook and prepare for the state exam
- Hands-On Experience: Practice boating, particularly oaring and trolling motor operation
Campers attending the week-long Fishing Camp are taken by the Thea Marie or by kayak or jon boat to fishing spots in the nearby Intracoastal Waterway or on the ocean. Students learn these valuable lessons:
- Fishing safety: Lessons on how to be safe around the water, motors and when using hooks and other sharp objects
- Fish facts: Lessons on fish identification, distinguishing characteristics, habitats, feeding preferences and bag limits
- Tackle: Lessons on rod & reel assembly, types of tackle, types of knots, how to select tackle for specific species of fish and tackle maintenance
- Casting: Lessons on casting using several types of reels
- Bait: Lessons on types of live bait, how to catch bait (cast net, dip net), artificial bait
- Fishing: Lessons on how to fish (species-specific), catch and release techniques fish stringers and cooler use and hands-on fishing
- Fish biology: Lessons on description of fisheries management techniques and local fisheries projects
- Scientific procedures: Lessons on fish dissection and otolith removal for aging fish
- Fish cleaning: Scaling, skinning and filleting
- Fishing tournaments: Learning about boat and shore categories and categories for different species of fish
Campers attending the week-long Snorkeling Camp learn these valuable lessons:
- Snorkeling safety
- Aquatic Food Chain: Using dip nets for collection of organisms for magnifier box and stereoscope observation, aquatic plant identification, wading birds and reptiles
- Hands-On Lessons: Engaging in activities on Peanut Island that make it fun for students to learn about the natural environment
Campers attending the week-long Kayak Camp learn these valuable lessons:
- Kayak safety
- Paddling techniques
- Capsize recovery
- Guided tours to Peanut Island
- Exploration of our waterways
Deep-Sea Fishing and Exploration Camp
Held on the new Thea Marie, the Deep Sea Fishing and Exploration Camp is the FFA’s most popular camp offering. Because space is limited, spots fill up quickly. Campers attending this week-long camp will learn boating safety and deep-sea fishing techniques while participating in these activities:
- Deep-sea fishing excursion to the ocean off Palm Beach County
- Trip to Munyon Island or out to sea snorkeling trip (depending on the weather)
- Drift fishing for snapper, grouper, kingfish and cobia
- Trolling for tuna, dolphin and wahoo
For more information about FFA programs, contact:
Captain Bob Cawood