Learn to fish, hunt, other outdoor activities at free camp
By Karen Caffarini For Sun-Times Media
Listen up campers: Children and their parents coming to Family Summer Camp at Bass Pro Shops in Portage learn from staff about fishing, shooting, archery and camping. | Supplied photo
Bass Pro Shops in Portage is gearing up for its annual Summer Family Camp, where kids and their parents can learn about fishing, camping and other outdoor activities, make crafts and eat s’mores, all free of charge.
Workshops take place 1 to 5 p.m. Saturday, Sunday, Tuesday and Thursday from June 9 to July 15 at the store, 6425 Daniel Burnham Drive, Portage. There is no need to sign up. However, moms, dads, the baby sitter or a guardian are expected to join the children in participating at the camp.
Activities take place either inside by the waterfall or outside, just west of the entrance.
“This is a family summer camp. The adult has to participate with the children and learn what they’re learning. It gives the adult something to do along with the child,” store administrator Linda Pearman said.
A different school of fish
She said some parents and children come in knowing little or nothing about fishing, shooting, archery or camping; others help the Bass Pro employees who teach the classes. Sometimes, even the teachers learn something new.
“I didn’t know fish have a built-in radar along their back. Now I know and can see it,” Pearman said.
She said in fishing classes, participants learn the different methods of casting, types of bait and that unless you plan on eating your catch you should release it as quickly as possible so it will survive.
“They learn why there are different colored lures and when they should use which color. It depends on what the fish are biting on,” Pearman said.
S’more to learn than fishing
There also are camping, shooting and archery classes.
In camping class, participants learn what equipment they need to bring, how to secure a campsite and that they should leave nothing behind when done.
Craft workshops are 1 to 4 p.m. on Saturday and Sunday, and from 2 to 4 p.m. on Tuesday and Thursday.
Pearman said crafts are geared toward kindergartners and up. Smaller kids will do coloring, she said. Others can make a metal craft and a picture frame with a camping theme, among other crafts. The kids can put their camping-themed photo taken at Bass Pro inside the frame.
“It looks like they’re on a camping trip,” Pearman said of the free photo, which can be taken 1 to 5 p.m. Saturday and Sunday during summer camp dates.
From 6 to 7 p.m. Saturdays during summer camp, Bass Pro employees will be serving up s’mores in front of the store.
“This is always a fun time. It’s usually 95 degrees and we have to put the chocolate on ice to keep it from melting,” Pearman laughed.
Continuing with the family theme, Bass Pro will have a catch-and-release program noon to 6 p.m. during Father’s Day weekend, June 12 to 14. Pearman said Bass Pro will provide ice fishing poles for the kids (so they don’t hook anyone passing by) and there will be plenty of small fish for the kids to catch.
In a different event, Bass Pro designates June Boy Scout Month.
Pearman said the store gives the Calumet Council Boy Scouts a check from the money that customers donate during the month. In addition, scouts can take rifle and fishing classes that will enable them to get a merit badge or a belt loop. Classes are 7 to 9 p.m. Tuesdays and Thursdays during June.
Jim Lakeman, scout executive at Calumet Council Boy Scouts, said the donation is used for its outreach program in Porter County, which provides funds for underprivileged youth who otherwise could not afford to join. Lakeman said about 100 to 150 boys in Porter County benefit from the program each year.
Lakeman said Webelos — older age Cub Scouts — can earn a belt loop when completing Bass Pro’s fishing program. He said the fishing class is taught at the well-stocked pond outside the store and includes the different types of fish you can catch, how to tie the knot of the fishing line, regulations and how to use the equipment.
Rifle shooting is geared to those ages 11 to 18. The scouts learn about safety, the different types of guns, from 22s to muzzle-loading rifles, gun laws in different states and wildlife resources, Lakeman said.
He said the scouts also are looking to add Bass Pro’s archery class as a means to receive a badge.
More information about the Summer Family Camp is at (219) 787-6800.