No matter where you are in Ventura County, you’re not very far from the beach. At most, an hour’s drive will find you at the sandy shore of the Pacific coast, a luxury much of America would love to afford. It can be easy to neglect the natural wonders the county has to offer — and for some youth living within the county’s borders, the ocean might as well be as far away as Europe.
Kevin Brannon sought to change that. Brannon, producer and host of Reel Anglers Fishing Show and founder of Reel Guppies Outdoor Program, noticed that many adult fishermen on the boats he worked for as a deck hand had questions with simple answers, questions that kids would undoubtedly have, too.
Born from the desire to educate laymen on the proper terms, techniques and tricks of the trade, Brannon launched Reel Anglers Fishing, a YouTube series tackling the tough questions, inspired by the 1980s educational program Reading Rainbow.
“I wanted a show that kind of answered the common questions, like a one-on-one show,” said Brannon. Now filming the 17th episode, Reel Anglers enlightens viewers on topics ranging from netting (the practice of catching crab and other bottom-dwelling creatures using a net) to the proper cleaning and cooking techniques of the day’s catch.
Filming for the show isn’t Brannon’s primary goal, however. Brannon grew up in Port Hueneme and south Oxnard, has “been a part of the system” as a foster kid and spent time on the piers. Brannon, after talking to the kids in his neighborhood, discovered that many of them don’t understand the opportunity given to them by being in close proximity to the sea.
Brannon often brought his own kids along on his trips out, which would garner the attention of the neighbors.
“Some kids are like, you guys are going fishing? I wish I could go fishing,” he said.
So Brannon brought them along, too. Through help and donations from several harbor businesses and volunteers, Brannon leads kids on outings once a month as part of the Reel Guppies Outdoor Program, where kids aged 10 to 17 get hands-on experience fishing and tackling the duties of a fisherman, such as rod repair and cleaning.
Brannon says that this kind of experience is priceless.
“If a kid starts now at 10 or 11 and continues to 16 or 17 years old, he’s already got on-the-job skills,” said Brannon. “They’re like sponges; the more we teach them at a younger age the more they’re going to gobble up and learn.”
There is no fee for interested youth who wish to join in on the activities, either, and much of the equipment has been donated. Recently, Channel Islands Sportfishing donated three years’ worth of lost and found to the program. Time out on the ocean in a charter boat is donated, too.
“The volunteers get just as much out of it as the kids do,” said Brannon. “They hear a kid say, ‘I’ve never been here before, this is the first fish I’ve caught, I thought fishing was lame.’ They live less than a mile away and they’ve never been able to do it.”
Bi-monthly classes in the Reel Guppies Outdoor Program will begin again in September. For more information on Reel Anglers, visit www.reelanglersfishingshow.com.