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Free Fishing with 4-H Funshop: Two Days of Learning and Fun on the Water

child holding a catfish

PETERSBURG, Ill. — The Menard County 4-H Program hosted an exciting and educational Free Fishing with 4-H Funshop, offering 19 local youth from Menard, Logan and Sangamon counties a hands-on experience with fishing and conservation. This event, held on June 17 and 18, provided a unique blend of classroom learning and field fishing, engaging young participants in a variety of activities designed to enhance their fishing skills and environmental awareness. The experience levels of Funshop attendees ranged from never having fished before to having caught fish in the Great Lakes.

The Funshop began with a three-hour classroom session led by Savannah and Jim Kolba of Savannah Kolba Outdoors. During this session, participants engaged in several interactive activities, including building spinnerbait, knot tying, comparing bait rigs, and understanding fish characteristics. The Kolbas’ expertise and enthusiasm made the learning experience both informative and enjoyable for the young anglers.

The event was made possible with the help of dedicated volunteers from the Menard County Farm Bureau, Menard County Soil & Water Conservation District, and the Athens Bass Fishing Team partnered with University of Illinois Extension staff. Their assistance was invaluable in ensuring that each activity ran smoothly and that participants received the guidance they needed to succeed.

Following the classroom session, the youth took to the water at the Menard County Fairgrounds pond for a practical fishing experience under the leadership of Tad Locher and Blake Bushman from the Illinois Department of Natural Resources. Tad and Blake provided the young fishers with hands-on instruction and tips to improve their fishing techniques in a real-world setting. Every one of our young fishers was successful, with some catching fish in double digits. The event concluded with a demonstration of the IDNR boat uncovering fish that hadn’t been caught by our participants.

Every participant was provided with a free tackle box, miscellaneous gear and a “snackle box,” adding a fun and personal touch to their fishing gear. The community volunteers played a crucial role in engaging with the youth, sharing their passion for fishing, and fostering a sense of community and stewardship of natural resources. Special thanks to the Menard County Soil & Water Conservation District for providing a surprise drawing for fishing poles and ensuring that every single youth went home with a gift card from Scheel’s. 

"We are thrilled with the turnout and the enthusiasm shown by the participants." said Stacie Skelton, Menard County 4-H Program Coordinator. "This event not only taught valuable fishing skills but also instilled a deeper appreciation for our natural environment. We are grateful to our partners and volunteers for making this event a success."

The Free Fishing with 4-H Funshop exemplifies the Menard County 4-H Program’s commitment to providing educational and engaging opportunities for youth, fostering a love for the outdoors, and promoting responsible environmental stewardship.

For more information about upcoming 4-H events and programs, please contact Stacie Skelton at 217-632-7491 or

ABOUT ILLINOIS 4-H: Illinois 4-H is the flagship youth development program of University of Illinois Extension and administered through the College of Agriculture, Consumer, and Environmental Sciences.4-H grows true leaders, youth who are empowered for life today and prepared for a career tomorrow. The hands-on approach in 4-H gives young people guidance, tools and encouragement, and then puts them in the driver’s seat to make great things happen. Independent research confirms the unparalleled impact of the 4-H experience, demonstrating that young people are four times more likely to contribute to their communities; two times more likely to make healthier choices; two times more likely to be civically active; and two times more likely to participate in STEM programs.

About Extension

Illinois Extension leads public outreach for University of Illinois by translating research into action plans that allow Illinois families, businesses, and community leaders to solve problems, make informed decisions, and adapt to changes and opportunities. Illinois Extension is part of the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign College of Agricultural, Consumer and Environmental Sciences.