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Casting lines and connecting lives: The Detroit River Youth Fishing Team

Mobile trailer wrapped in an illustrated image of four kids from diverse backgrounds, fishing and the Detroit skyline in the background.
Utilizing a mobile trailer funded by the GLRI, the DRYFT program touches lives in a 100-mile radius. (Credit: Erika Van Kirk, USFWS)

Outside of Detroit, a city renowned for its vibrant culture and rich history, a unique program named the Detroit River Youth Fishing Team (DRYFT) has been making waves. The DRYFT story is one of community, strength and the transformative power of nature. It began as a collaborative effort with organizations like the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Girl Scouts of America, Detroit Outdoors, and various local schools and community groups. DRYFT’s primary goals were to serve traditionally underserved communities, connect people to their local watershed, teach the importance of native versus invasive species, and foster an awareness of how human activities affect water quality. 

The GLRI-funded program has two aspects:

  • Learn to Fish Experience: Youth learned to set up their fishing poles, understand their tackle boxes and then try fishing. This hands-on approach culminated in each participant taking home their gear, igniting a potential lifelong hobby.
  • A Day in the Life of a Fisheries Biologist: This program delved into career pathways, fish identification and practical fieldwork, enabling participants to step into the shoes of a fisheries biologist for a day. Uniquely, our agency’s refuges and fisheries programs worked together to create this program, with participants learning alongside a fisheries biologist and park ranger.

Participants were from Hamtramck High School, Cesar Chavez Academy and local Girl Scouts. Each brought their unique background and perspective but shared a common curiosity about fish and wildlife. 

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