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Fishing for Success

young woman posing and smiling with fish in boat on river with friends

Fishing For Success (FFS) is a multifaceted program of the University of Florida that uses fishing and other related activities as the “hook” to introduce children of all ages to various aspects of fisheries and aquatic sciences. The current program began in 1998 with an initial focus of providing mentoring and career counseling to a small group of underprivileged youth, and has constantly evolved to meet the needs of 4-H extension faculty, teachers, youth group leaders, and the community at large.

Today, through a combination of on-site and off-site tours, demonstrations, hands-on activities, and community fishing events, the program provides education, recreation, and rehabilitation therapy to a large, broad demographic slice of the population. Annually, FFS hosts approximately 8,000 youth on-site, with another 2,000 youth reached during off-site activities.

Program Faculty and Staff

Dr. Charles E. Cichra

Dr. Charles E. Cichra
Professor and FFS Director 
(352) 273-3621

Bethan Gillett
FFS Program Coordinator 

More Information

  • Programs

    On-Site Programs

    FFS conducts over 100 onsite programs at the UF Fisheries and Aquatic Sciences facility each year, reaching thousands of youths and chaperones. Visiting school groups, youth clubs, and camps participate in tours, demonstrations, and hands-on environmental learning activities tailored to each group's age and interests.

    In the “fish barn,” visitors learn about the distinctive adaptations, life history, and ecology of common freshwater fish. In the dipping ponds, participants use nets to collect their own invertebrates, identify them, and discuss their unique characteristics and role in aquatic food webs. We also offer programs on aquatic plants, water quality, and aquaculture. After completing two activities, groups can fish our ponds stocked with channel catfish, bluegill, and largemouth bass.

    In addition to the outdoor educational activities, the program provides a memorable first experience with the rewarding sport of fishing. For many organizations, such as retirement homes and adult day health care facilities, these activities provide valuable therapeutic rehabilitation.

    Field trips cost $7 per youth for 3-4 hours, including two educational activities and fishing. Fishing-only trips are $5 per angler for 1-2 hours.


    Off-Site Programs

    FFS also conducts off-site programs when visiting schools for career-day seminars and educational presentations on the biology and ecology of fish, aquatic plants, and aquatic invertebrates found in Florida streams, lakes, and ponds.

    FFS biologists can travel to conduct hands-on environmental education, ecology presentations, and fishing days throughout the state. We collaborate with groups such as 4-H, the YMCA, Scouts, Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, local nature centers, and Ducks Unlimited to conduct these educational programs. FFS hosts interactive exhibits at youth fairs, environmental festivals, and natural history museums.

    Activities during off-site events vary widely. Depending on the venue, we offer hands-on, educational talks about aquatic invertebrates, fish, plants, and/or water quality. Older children and teens can experience the thrill of using seine nets to collect fish from nearby waterways, learn to identify them, and understand how scientists use sampling techniques to manage non-game and sport fish populations.

    Local sponsors, including UF County Extension faculty, generally organize, coordinate, and fund off-site programs. Given that we receive little or no funds for travel from UF, we cannot participate in all requested programs and may need reimbursement for our mileage.

  • Family Fishing Days

    FFS hosts monthly events (March through November) that provide families the opportunity to fish together in a safe and fun setting in our 6 “catching ponds” on the grounds of Fisheries and Aquatic Sciences. Anglers can expect to catch bream (bluegill, red-ear sunfish, warmouth), largemouth bass, and channel catfish up to 10 lbs. Family Fishing Days are free, open to the public, and catch-and-release. Volunteers are on hand to help. We encourage folks with little or no fishing experience to attend. Our volunteers enjoy showing novices the ropes.

    Family Fishing Day are held once each month at the UF/IFAS fishing ponds. As always, all family members, including those with disabilities, are encouraged to participate! We offer a railed fishing deck, with two handicapped accessible ramps for those with disabilities who enjoy the thrill of fresh water fishing! Come for a morning of fun, family-oriented, fresh-water fishing. We have loaner poles and bait (cut up hotdogs and beef liver) available, but everyone is welcome to bring their own equipment and bait.



    We are located in Northwest Gainesville, about 2 miles west of Devil’s Millhopper State Geologic Site. Heading west on Millhopper Rd., take a right onto NW 71st Street. Go through the gate, and continue until the pavement ends at a long, white building. The ponds will be to your right. There’s plenty of paved parking!

    Our address is:
    7922 NW 71st Street
    Gainesville, FL 32653

    No need to RSVP for events unless your group has more than 10 people. We respectfully ask that you leave your pets at home for all events.


    Click the link to download the 2023 Family Fishing Days Schedule.

    All events are free and open to the general public.

    Fishing is from 8am till noon

    No need to RSVP for events, unless your group has more than 10 people.

  • Fitz-Coy Memorial

    Endowment for Sharon Fitz-Coy Memorial Award

    Sharon Fitz-Coy, senior biologist with the UF/IFAS SFRC Fisheries and Aquatic Sciences Program for the past 23+ years, unexpectedly passed away on 27 February 2016.

    Sharon was the “Jamaican mother” for many graduate students over the years. As education coordinator for our Fishing For Success program, Sharon personally conducted face-to-face hands-on outdoor education programs for over 150,000 children and their parents. She likely introduced more children to fishing than any other person in Florida.

    When UF decided to stop conducting our monthly Family Fishing Days Sharon took it upon herself to keep this program going, by volunteering her weekends to set-up and conduct these family-oriented events. She rounded up 100s of volunteers to help. She gave away 1,000s of rubber worm awards to children who caught either a largemouth bass or channel catfish.

    Sharon had a passion and love for introducing children of all ages to the wonders of our aquatic world. It’s was not uncommon for a teacher to come up to Miss Sharon and say “You probably don’t remember me, but as a child, I participated in one of your programs and now I’m bringing my students to you to teach.” What a role model!

    Often when out in the public, children would run up to her and say “Miss Sharon! Miss Sharon! You’re the bug lady that we visited!” Sharon will always be remembered in our hearts and in the hearts of the many 10,000s of children that she influenced! Sharon always greeted folks with a big smile, a laugh, and a will to get things done!

    In honor or Sharon's commitment to youth, we have set up an endowment (The Sharon Fitz-Coy Memorial Award) in the UF/IFAS Fisheries and Aquatic Sciences Program. This annual award will be given to UF students making an impact on youth in their community. Donations (tax deductible) can be made payable to UF Foundation, Inc. and sent to UF/IFAS Development, P.O. Box 110170, Gainesville, FL 32611-0170. Please note Sharon Fitz-Coy in the memo area. Donations can also be made online at Our goal is to raise $30,000 to fully endow the award.

    As said by one of Sharon’s best friends: “We will all hurt and cry at her loss, but I will always remember the fire and joy she always displayed.”

    For more information, please contact:

    Chuck Cichra

  • Educational Resources