For many dedicated anglers, fishing is more than pulling large, toothy, scaly creatures out of the water and onto the dinner table.
It may be a form of recreation or a way to connect with the land or to teach children about respect, life and death.
While we each have our own reasons, as long as we respect this great resource there is room for all of us.
While I try my best to be a conscientious angler, I could probably give back more to the environment, my community and fish. It is for this reason I hold great value in my new friendship with Susan Thompson.
Susan is a Yukoner, who works with fish and goes well beyond “acting locally and thinking globally”. By day she is the Department of Environment, Fisheries Management biologist who crusades for Yukon fish habitat, their stocks and recreational angling opportunities.
By night, she relentlessly works to build capacity development programs in rural Africa.
Susan spends three months a year in Kenya operating her own grass-roots program focused on fish farming, sewing, sports and education. Her mainstay is assisting fish-farming co-ops where local people raise Talapia and/or catfish to sell at markets.
Fish farming is a welcome source of income and nutrition for these impoverished communities. She is hands-on, assisting and inspecting ponds, providing technical advice, sourcing fish fry and even lending money for start-ups.
Susan started out in Kenya working with a Canadian NGO and a local agency. Unfortunately, her feeling was that most of the support was not ending up with those that need it most. As a result, she decided to take matters into her own hands.
This very humble Yukoner has helped over 60 individuals, forming lasting friendships along the way. She is personally invested, continually expanding her support to women through sewing, youth in education and working toward feeding children in schools.
While she experienced first-hand the recent civil war in Kenya, she is determined to return next winter and continue her work. She personally knows many Kenyans that were affected by the war and recognizes now, more than ever, they need support.
I find it inspiring that someone who cares deeply about fish in the Yukon can put this into action on the other side of the earth.
If we get philosophical about it, water connects us all. It’s not that different than the Yukon River Salmon and the relationship we have with the Alaskans and all the other communities along this 3,200-kilometre waterway. If we all cared more about water, fish and people, this would be a better place.
You can learn more about Susan and her programs by visiting www.fish4kenya.com. With her new website, she is able to keep friends and supporters up to date with stories, reports and pictures.
Susan willingly accepts donations and will go out of her way to ensure that people are aware of where all contributions go.
If you would like to share your fishing story, or hear more about this one, visit Dennis Zimmermann’s Yukon fishing blog at www.fishonyukon.com.
PHOTO: COURTESY OF SUSAN THOMPSON