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Fishing for Smiles left out of grant funding

The largest free fishing event in the Kingman area for kids - Fishing For Smiles - did not receive a grant from the Arizona Game and Fish Department for the 2015 program, and it has some of the organizers worried about the continuation of the event.

The event, which for the past four years has been put on through the combined efforts of the Mohave Sportsman Club and the Kingman Elks Lodge No. 468, was funded through a grant from the Arizona Game and Fish Department.

The grant was called the Local Sportsmen's Group grant program. In the past, the Mohave Sportsman Club was awarded grants that totaled almost $6,000 to put on the event, which was for kids ages 5-16, many of whom never had the opportunity to go fishing.

Bill Schleeter, treasurer for the MSC, said he was shocked and "extremely disappointed" when he found out that the MSC was not one of the 16 selected to receive funds.

In a letter to the MSC, the Game and Fish noted that "there were 29 grant applications requesting more than $175,000 from the $75,000 available through the Arizona Game and Fish Department's Local Sportsmen's Group grant program. The following 16 projects totaling $74,496 have been selected based on this year's funding window of hunter recruitment and retention and the adoption sequence mode. Priority will be placed on projects that involve the take/harvesting of wildlife using a firearm, bow and arrow, or trapping."

Schleeter says he plans to appeal the decision to Game and Fish Director Larry Voyles.

"After all, aren't they game and fish?" Schleeter said.

While Schleeter is right about that, there are other factors that come into play.

First of all, it appears that this year, for whatever reason, the department changed the priority for the grants and decided to exclude fishing.

That information was apparently out there when the MSC applied for the $6,200 grant.

That being said, I can only wonder why there is not any grant funding mechanism out there for fishing.

As far as I can tell, local sportsmen groups such as the MSC asks for little in the way of support from the department when it comes to fishing.

And considering we have more than 1,000 miles of Colorado River shoreline and three major lakes within the borders of Mohave County, it seems the department would support any fishing programs here.

And while the event is in jeopardy right now due to a lack of funding, I'm confident that with guys like Schleeter, Bill Schilling, Bob Kay and Jerry Grimes working behind the scenes on getting funding, there will be a Fishing For Smiles event in 2015.

Grimes, Kay and Shilling are already looking to the National Elks Foundation for possible financial support.

Schleeter is writing letters of appeal.

I've got to believe that the MSC and the Elks will somehow, some way, find funding to make sure that kids in our community can go fishing for free.

And in an absolutely worst-case scenario, I think the Kingman community, with all of the various clubs and civic organizations, would step up and pool their money.


On a personal note, I heard that Brian Wakeling, the big game supervisor for the Arizona Game and Fish Department, is retiring and leaving the department in September.

Wakeling is taking a supervisory role with the Nevada Department of Wildlife.

The first time I met Brian was many, many years ago when I saw him walking through the forest in Unit 4A carrying what looked like a TV antennae. Seems he was involved in an ongoing turkey project and he was following them around in the forest.

Since that time, I've come to know Brian on a much more personal basis. He has always been the ultimate professional, always glad to answer questions and is one who answers phone calls left on his phone right away.

I'm sorry to see Brian leave Arizona. It is our loss, but I understand why he is moving on. The good news is that now I'll know a good guy at NDOW.


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