Launching at the Kids Fish Camp at the Florida Scrub-Jay Trail, south of Clermont

Story and Photos by Linda Charlton

It’s June and the fish are biting. No surprise there, as Lake County has a long track record of world-class fishing — big mouth bass in particular. June is also time for the Florida Scrub-Jay Trail’s annual Kid’s Fish Camp, where students can take advantage of the Trail’s little lake and learn fishing technique, tackle selection, fish cleaning, boat operation and all sorts of other “fishy” skills. As usual, the Camp’s student slots have all been filled, including the 1-week session held in March, early pandemic.

“We were the only ones open,” Scrub-Jay Trail co-founder Cathy Brown said of that first week. “We’ve had a steady stream of visitors. We’ve had people from all over, people who had always wanted to visit us. Not one kid had electronics. Now that things are opening up, it has started to slack off.”

Ashley (Ash) Condon at the Florida Angler in Downtown Clermont

Over in downtown Clermont at The Florida Angler, co-owner Ash Condon tells a similar story. “Business has been very good, Condon says. “When it comes to fishing and other outdoor activities, people talked a good game, but when the rubber hit the road, they never got around to it. Now they get around to it. I’ve sold a lot, though business is starting to slack off.”

The Fish Camp at the Scrub-Jay Trail is held one week early on to correspond with local students’ spring break, then again for three weeks early summer.  This coming week is the camp’s fourth and final week, and for the first time it is being run as an “advanced” camp, with students spending a couple of days fishing on the Clermont Chain.

Fishing pro Tim Frederick at the Florida Scrub-Jay Trail

On Wednesday, the 20 students, plus staff, were joined by a special guest, Lake County’s own Tim Frederick. Frederick has been a Fishing League Worldwide (FLW) Tour Angler for five years now and is the official fishing ambassador for Lake County tourism. As he told campers, it’s his job to help bring fishermen and fish tournaments to Lake County lakes.

Currently living in Leesburg, Frederick has been a resident of Lake County since he was four. And his dad was a bass guide for 20 years.

“My first car was a boat,” Frederick said, with a totally straight face. “I’m honored to have Lake County tourism sponsor me. Having a whole county behind me, that’s a really good feeling for me.”

On his decision to turn pro after his son graduated from high school school, he said  “why not turn something you have a passion for and make a living of it?”

Fishing pro Tim Frederick exchanges fishing stories with fishing camper Gavin Gregory at the Florida Scrub-Jay Trail

Frederick fielded questions from the student anglers for about an hour under the oaks at the Trail, sometimes technical questions, but more often lifestyle questions: how many pet dogs do you have, have you been ice fishing, did you save any of your childhood rods, what’s the craziest thing you’ve ever seen while fishing, have you ever caught a crab that you thought was a big fish, what do you think is the smartest fish of the ones you fish for ..

For the record, the largest fish he has caught was a 300-pound goliath groper and a 7-foot 220-pound tarpon. His largest bass so far was 15 lbs. 4 oz. and he caught it on the Harris Chain. He does not have a dog at this point because, as he says, he’s on the road too much. He has saved one of the childhood rods, just like he has saved the shoes he wore when he won a major tournament on Lake Okeechobee,. He has never been ice fishing, but says it’s on his “bucket list.” He has caught crabs, but has never mistaken them for a big fish. The craziest thing he’s seen was on the Ocklawaha  — “I caught a 5-pounder and when he opened his mouth, there was a water moccasin. It was dead, but the top part looked perfectly preserved. If a bass spits up in your live well, you’ve got to be careful.” As for the smartest fish, Frederick picks bass.

“They’re smart,” he says. “I love chasing them, but sometimes you don’t win the chase.”

Over at The Florida Angler in downtown Clermont, co-owner Ash Condon has his own insights on how fish think.

“They survive the same way humans do,” Condon says. “They want to feel protected and they want to eat. They want shelter and food. If they eat baitfish, they go where the baitfish are. That means algae. That means structures.”

According to the site, the fish you can expect to catch in the Clermont Chain are bass, crappie, catfish, shellcrackers, sunshine bass and bluegill.

To promote fishing, the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission designates two weekends per year for license-free freshwater recreational fishing, and two weekends for license-free saltwater fishing. The second and final freshwater weekend was June 13-14.

Previous articleMembers Of The Clermont Youth Council Head To College
Next articleAssessment Team Seeks Comments about Clermont Police Department for Re-Accreditation