Established in 2009, the Soldiers’ Kids Involved in Fishing Fun (SKIFF) program now enters its ninth season providing free, professionally guided fishing trips, by boat, to soldiers’ kids separated from their parents by military duty obligations such as deployment, gunnery, National Training Center or Joint Readiness Training Center rotations, military schooling, temporary duty assignments and the like.
To date, SKIFF has placed 407 children, most from Fort Hood, on the waters of Stillhouse Hollow Lake and Belton Lake. Those children have landed 10,058 fish, an average of just over 24 fish per child.
SKIFF’s most recent trip recipients were Adalyn and Maryn Readout of Harker Heights, ages 8 and 4, respectively. Accompanied by their mother, Stacey Readout, the girls arrived at the courtesy dock at 6:30 Wednesday morning at Stillhouse Hollow.
After receiving a short safety briefing and being provided with basic guidance on how to use both casting and spinning gear, the party set off in their guide’s boat to the nearby fishing grounds.
The weather that morning was favorable, with some grey cloud cover and a southeasterly breeze around 11 miles per hour. The girls did not have to wait long for success to come their way as they immediately began catching white bass while using Pet Spoons fished on downriggers.
When it became obvious that fish were concentrated in one particular area, their guide stopped the boat atop these fish and showed the sisters how to use spinning tackle to catch fish at a fast rate using chrome slabs.
Once the white bass settled down and the novelty of fishing for them ebbed, the girls were provided with instruction on how to catch sunfish from hydrilla beds in shallow water.
All told, the girls landed 44 fish in about 3½ hours of fishing before the sun and diminishing winds made it a bit uncomfortable to remain on the water any longer.
Stacey was excited about the prospect of sharing the photos and video clips she took throughout the excursion with her husband, U.S. Army Cpt.Aaron Readout, who is currently deployed to Poland.
Although the SKIFF program operates year-round, a majority of the trips take place over the summer break when both kids’ schedules and their parents’ schedules are a bit more flexible than during the school year.
Although June is nearly completely booked, SKIFF fishing trip dates in both July and August are still available.
Open dates, as of this writing, include June 26, July 4, 11, 23-27, 30, 31, and Aug. 1, 2, 6-11, 13-17, and 20-25. All trips take place in the morning, generally starting between 6:45 and 7, and go for up to 3½ to 4 hours. Shorter trips can be arranged for younger children.
Interested parents should call or text SKIFF at 254-368-7411 to make a reservation.
SKIFF prefers to take a ‘low-quantity, high-quality’ approach to the fishing trips they provide, hence, only 1-4 children attend any given trip depending on age, and most trips include just one family at a time.
Children ages 5 and older generally do best, according to SKIFF trip coordinators, as children younger typically lack the manual dexterity required to use the necessary fishing tackle.
SKIFF is sponsored by the Austin Fly Fishers. This nonprofit organization made up of men and women who share a love of the outdoors, donates funds and conducts fundraising each year to see to it that any time a family requests a fishing trip, the answer is always “Yes!”
The Austin Fly Fishers has attracted other like-minded organizations as well, including Women Helping Others based in Sun City in Georgetown, as well as the McBride Foundation which is associated with the longstanding Austin Woods and Waters hunting and fishing club.
According to SKIFF organizers, parents are “optional” on the guided fishing trips they provide, meaning parents are always welcome to attend, but are not required to do so.
Dave Hill, an Austin Fly Fishers member and longtime SKIFF supporter said, “Many times the homefront parent is a single-parent 24/7, 365. Those with multiple, younger kids have told us they can’t shop, shower or use the restroom without having to keep a sharp eye on their children while their spouse is away.
“We want to give military parents like this a break from their own kids if they need one. It’s like respite care for caregivers.”
SKIFF welcomes inquiries from parents, grandparents, church youth leaders, educators, military family readiness/family support group leaders, etc. Contact SKIFF via phone or text at 254-368-7411.