Trying to convince kids to stay away from drugs is an ongoing battle. Authorities and parents continually look for ways to occupy kids so boredom won’t lead to unnecessary temptations. Activities have been a favorite way, especially when it’s getting kids involved in sports.
Fishing is one of those activities, and that is the continued impetus behind legislation sponsored by the state’s 9th District legislature delegation that would permanently create and fund a Hooked on Fishing, Not on Drugs program throughout New Jersey.
The Hooked on Fishing, Not on Drugs program has been in existence in New Jersey since a pilot program began in Ocean County in 2000, said Assemblyman Brian Rumpf, one of the sponsors of the bills – one in the Assembly, one in the Senate – that would permanently establish the HOFNOD program.
The Assembly version – A-638, sponsored by Rumpf and Assemblywoman DiAnne C. Gove – recently advanced out of the Assembly Appropriations Committee recently, moving it one step closer to a vote by the full Assembly. Its companion bill, S-178 sponsored by Sen. Christopher Connors, was approved by the Senate Environment and Energy Committee on Feb. 9 and awaits action by the Senate Budget and Appropriations Committee.
The bills would establish the program within the state’s Division of Fish and Wildlife and fund it through a $200,000 appropriation from the Drug Enforcement and Demand Reduction Fund (DEDRF), where fines and penalties from convicted drug offenders are deposited and then are used to support state-authorized drug and alcohol abuse abatement programs. DEDRF has carried a surplus over the course of several fiscal years.
Hooked on Fishing, Not on Drugs is a national program started by the Future Fisherman Foundation that aims to teach children about fishing and the environment. HOFNOD uses angling skill development as a gateway to teach youth about the benefits of a healthy lifestyle and how to deal with the challenges facing them in their young lives, the national organization’s website notes.
In 1986, a young man from Florida wrote a letter to the Future Fisherman Foundation saying fishing had kept him off drugs and that he thought it would help keep other teens away from drugs, too, and HOFNOD was born.
In New Jersey, “there have been demonstrated success stories,” said Rumpf, who was the mayor of Little Egg Harbor Township, which had a HOFNOD event in 2000 at Tip Seaman Park. There were more than 150 parents and children who participated, he said.
“It tries to incorporate the message that there are fun and productive things you can be doing besides alcohol and drugs,” Rumpf said.
The legislation has been kicking around at the state level for several years, but Rumpf said the cutbacks suffered by the Division of Fish and Wildlife in 2008 have spurred more attention.
In 2008, then-Gov. Jon Corzine cut the state’s budget across the board and that resulted in the division cutting out its fishing derby assistance because it lacked the staff to participate.
Many of those derbies had been part of the HOFNOD program, and that has strengthened interest in passing the legislation, Rumpf said.
“I believe there is recognition that it is a low-cost way to combat this problem, and it has demonstrated success stories,” Rumpf said. “Folks are excited to see it move forward on a statewide basis.”