A child's life is a series of firsts -- the first tooth, the first step, the first word and the first birthday. The Missouri Department of Conservation has a program to commemorate one of those signal events -- a young angler's first fish.
"I suspect that a lot of people can remember their first fish," said Randy Noyes, who started the Conservation Department's First Fish Program (FFP). "Mine was a 5-inch green sunfish I caught out of a little pond on my family's farm near Ten Mile. It was early summer, and I was in a rush, because I had just been given my first fishing rod, a bamboo cane pole. It only took me about 10 minutes to catch the first fish. I must have been using worms for bait."
To this day, said Noyes, the sight of a plastic bobber dancing on the water still makes his heart skip a beat.
While Noyes has mental images of that first fish, he doesn't have a photo of it. Today, with digital cameras in devices from cell phones to binoculars, many more youngsters' first fish are being captured for posterity.
The FFP offers a way of turning those images into permanent mementoes.
Proud parents, aunts, uncles or friends of young anglers can get certificates suitable for framing for their protégés. Applications are available at www.mdc.mo.gov/fish/kids/. Print out the form, and fill it out.
Mail the completed application, along with a photo of the angler holding his or her first fish, to the Missouri Department of Conservation, Fisheries Division, P.O. Box 180, Jefferson City, MO 65102-0180. All photos are returned with the certificates.
If you cannot download the form, you can send in the nominee's age, name, address and phone number, along with the species, weight and length of the fish, when and where it was caught and by what method -- pole and line, set line, etc.
If you do not have a photo, the Conservation Department can substitute a shiny foil First Fish Award seal on the face of the certificate.