Rob Jarvis, Head PGA Professional at Bangor (Maine) Municipal Golf Course, and Wes Ashe, a fisheries biologist for the Maine Department of Inland Fisheries & Wildlife, launched Kids Fishing Day at Bangor Municipal in 2015. They created the free event as a way for families to spend quality time together at the golf course.
When lifelong friends get together, they have countless memories to share. When Bangor, Maine natives Rob Jarvis and Wes Ashe get together, they help create memories for others.
In 2015, Jarvis, the Head PGA Professional at Bangor (Maine) Municipal Golf Course, and Ashe, a fisheries biologist for the Maine Department of Inland Fisheries & Wildlife, launched Kids Fishing Day at Bangor Municipal. The two men had grown up fishing with each other and with their fathers, and they created the free event as a way for families to spend quality time together at the golf course.
“My father passed away in 2016, and the memories I made fishing with him are really the fondest I have,” says Jarvis. “Everybody doesn’t have the opportunity to get out and fish with their dad or their grandfather.”
Kids Fishing Day is held each year at Bangor Municipal GC on the last Sunday of October or the first Sunday of November, depending on the weather, and typically draws 75 to 100 kids, ranging in age from 4 to 17. The golf course closes the front nine for about three hours so children can fish for brook trout in the pond on the second hole. A week before the outing, the pond is stocked with 175 brook trout from Enfield State Fish Hatchery.
“There are so many kids that are casting a line for the first time. It’s great to see their excitement,” says Jarvis, who has worked at Bangor Municipal since he was 17 years old.
The children have to supply their own fishing rods and bait. Fly fishing is not allowed, because of the number of participants and the space required to cast. “The biggest thing is safety,” Jarvis says. “We don’t want the kids to hook each other with a back cast.”
No fishing license is required, and children must be accompanied by an adult. Jarvis, Ashe, and other golf course personnel and members are there to help as well. The young anglers are also encouraged to keep their catches, because the pond is not large enough to sustain trout throughout the season.
“When people set foot on our property, we want everybody to have fun,” says Jarvis. “Most of them don’t catch a fish, and some only stay for a half-hour or so. But for all of them, when they leave, I want them to think of Bangor Municipal Golf Course as a place where they had a great day. Second, I want them to catch dinner.”
For the initial event four years ago, Bangor Municipal spread the news through social media, local media outlets, and word of mouth. Now, Jarvis says, “The community looks for it. We have some people come up from southern Maine a couple of hours away. It’s become a calendar event for a lot of families.”
He is convinced that the event attracts others to the property as well. “We had three bald eagles patrolling for trout all fall,” he says. “I think they have it on their calendars, too. When they show up, it’s not a coincidence.”
Bangor Municipal is one of only four Audubon Cooperation Sanctuary Program-certified golf courses in the state, and Kids Fishing Day serves as one of the property’s community outreach efforts. Jarvis hopes the event encourages children to be outdoors instead of at home playing video games.
“The golf course is on a hill in the metro area, and there’s no good trout fishing around Bangor,” he says. “Maybe the kids will never have a chance to go to a real trout stream, but this gives them an experience in their own backyard.”
Outings like Kids Fishing Day create benefits for the property and expose Bangor Municipal to another market, Jarvis adds. Community members even approach him in the grocery store to thank him for putting on the event.
“People are paying attention more than you think,” he says. “The more you can connect with your members and players on other levels, the better off you are. When people choose a course to play, they’re certainly going to think a little longer about playing Bangor Municipal because of events like this.”