SCRUGGS, Va. (WFXR) — The Class was in session Sunday afternoon on Smith Mountain Lake, but the students did not even know it. They thought it was just a fishing trip.

More than two dozen children took part in the Reel Connections for Kids fishing event that launched out of Crazy Horse Marina and Captain’s Quarters on Smith Mountain Lake on May 21. Reel Connections was born out of efforts by the Smith Mountain Striper Club (SMSC) to give underserved children the opportunity for something they may not have otherwise had, to go fishing with a professional striped bass guide.

“This is a great opportunity for kids to come out in a really structured environment,” said SMSC President Chad Gilmore. “These are professional striper fishermen the kids are fishing with.”

Children fishing on Smith Mountain Lake during the Reel Connections event (Photo: George Noleff)

While the day on the water was fun, the children were learning life lessons like patience and determination, as well as adding to their knowledge of biology and conservation. Plus, they were developing a passion for fishing that could last them a lifetime.

“We bring them out and show them what we do, and get them involved in fishing,” said Reel Connections board member and Patriot Fishing Charters owner Captain John Mathena. “Hopefully, we’re growing some new people for the sport.”

Sisters Emma and Elena Via and Riley Smithers all caught fish.

Sisters Riley Smithers, Emma Via, and Elena Via (Photo: George Noleff)

“The fishing was fun,” said Emma Via.

“It was exciting when there was a fish and we reeled it in,” added Elena Via.

Every year, the SMSC brings together volunteers and striper guides to make the Reel Connections event happen. The Virginia Department of Wildlife Resources (DWR) also had two Conservation Police Division officers on hand. They say their job involves protecting resources for the future, and that means working with young people today.

“This is our next generation and we need to get them familiar with fishing and why it’s important,” said DWR Conservation Police Officer Eric Dotterer. “We need to teach them how to conserve.”

While there were lessons to be learned, there were also memories to be made.

Dustin Via was able to take his daughters fishing through the event: “They had a great time and that’s what it’s all about.”

Fish caught during the Reel Connections event (Photo: Jon Anderson/SMSC)

It was rewarding for the captains who were involved, too.

“I’ll always remember it,” said Hooked Up Charters owner and guide Robert Dean Wood. “That’s what it’s all about, taking kids out who wouldn’t have the chance, and catching fish.”

Reel Connections will hold a bank fishing event in October. The group welcomes donations and volunteers.