Junior Ranger Angler Program Connects Fishing with History on the Captain John Smith Chesapeake Trail

By PNTS staff with support from Remi Shuall-Thompson, Communications Associate, Chesapeake Conversancy

Junior Ranger Angler participant learning from an expert angler. Photo courtesy of Remi Shuall-Thompson.

“Through fishing, young people learn a new skill that connects them not only to the natural world, but also the culture of the Chesapeake Bay, past and present. Fishing is a huge part of life in the Chesapeake Bay today and is also an important part of the story we tell here at the Captain John Smith Chesapeake National Historic Trail,” said Remi Shaull-Thompson, Communications Associate for the Captain John Smith Chesapeake NHT. 

This summer, 425 new Junior Ranger Anglers joined the forces protecting, enjoying, and caring for the Captain John Smith Chesapeake National Historic Trail (NHT). The Junior Ranger Angler program provides an educational experience for young people to learn about fishing, responsible recreation, and the many recreational opportunities in our nation’s National Parks and Trails. After completing the program, participants earn a badge and the title of Junior Ranger Angler.

The Captain John Smith Chesapeake NHT received a National Park Foundation grant to host programs along the trail this summer, which allowed both young people and adults with developmental disabilities to participate in the program and become Junior Ranger Anglers. The Trail partnered with Watermen’s Museum in Yorktown, VA, the Zimmerman Center for Heritage in Wrightsville, PA, Machicomoco State Park in Gloucester County, VA, and Williamsburg ARC to host the programs. 

Participants were given the opportunity to try fishing in the York and Susquehanna Rivers, guided by expert fishers. Participants not only learned how to fish, but about the history and heritage of the Chesapeake Bay, including traditional fishing practices, Indigenous and colonial history in the area, and the role ecosystems of the Bay play in contemporary life. “We hope that participants of the Junior Angler program make connections between the cultures of the past and those of today. These comparisons help us think consciously about the mutual relationship between human beings and nature, including where our natural resources like food come from,” said Shuall-Thompson. 

The Junior Ranger Angler program will remain a part of interpretive outreach on the Captain John Smith Chesapeake NHT. As programs continue, more Junior Ranger Anglers will gain meaningful experiences with a National Trail and, hopefully, develop a life-long relationship with the outdoors. 

Learn about the Junior Ranger Angler Program at nps.gov/subjects/fishing/junior-ranger-fishing

Junior Ranger Angler activity book, Let’s Go Fishing! Image by the National Park Service.