USG is taking a new approach to its retired quarry ponds at Alabaster.

On the heels of hosting the first-ever public fishing event at its quarry ponds last June, the company’s Michigan leaders said they were swamped with calls for a return of the event in 2019.

They decided they could do even better.

“Fishing is part of life in this region,” said Alabaster plant manager Matt Craig. “But we looked around and realized one reason the Free Fishing day was such a hit is that local kids don’t have enough places to go wet a line, or any kind of local program focused on helping them learn the basics of fishing.”

Community surveys show there is strong local interest in programs focused on the outdoors, including introducing kids to fishing. But local program developers lacked a location, volunteers, and other key program resources.

“We wanted to do something more than just invite the neighbors once a year for Free Fishing Weekend,” Craig said, noting that event will return in June 2019. “So, we’re working with some great partners to develop a local summer program for kids. We need volunteer instructors from the community to make it happen.”

USG has committed resources and the location – its retired quarry ponds. The company stocked the ponds in November with hundreds of thousands of minnows to help kickstart a stronger fishery. Now USG is putting out the call to Iosco County parents, grandparents, teachers and others to serve as fishing instruction volunteers.

The company is hosting Project F.I.S.H. (Friends Involved in Sportfishing Heritage) March 16-17 for a training and certification program. It is open to anyone interested in becoming a volunteer instructor for youth.

The deadline to register is Feb. 22. The class is capped at 30 participants.

Step one for prospective volunteer instructors? Learn to teach.

“We need help from anyone in the area who loves fishing and is interested in being a mentor to kids,” Craig said. “Knowing something about fishing certainly helps, but willingness to work with kids is key.”

The two-day session will take place at the USG quarry garage in Alabaster. Participants will get hands-on training on essential fishing skills, making tackle, how to explain the importance of the food web for fishing success, how to filet fish and tips for getting kids excited about angling.

Following the training, participants receive a spincast rod and reel, backyard bass game, tackle box, tackle crafting supplies, bluegill fish print mold, a natural resources stewardship project guide and the Project F.I.S.H. curriculum with instructions for more than 100 fishing education activities. Program graduates also receive access to the Bait Shop, an online store that offers educational fishing tools at a discounted rate.

With contributions from USG to offset costs, this two-day session is reduced to $50 per person. Interested participants can learn more and register for the training by visiting

This opportunity is supported by USG, MSU Extension, Iosco County 4-H, Michigan Sea Grant, Northeast Michigan Great Lakes Stewardship Initiative network, as well as the Bosch Community Fund, the NOAA B-WET supported “Our Fisheries, Our Future” project.

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