Teaching a Neighborhood to Fish: Kevin Brannon

kevin brannon and son casts off a dock
Brannon casts off the dock in Port Hueneme, California. Photo: Nick Zachar/NOAA

Kevin Brannon is the founder of the Reel Guppy Outdoor Fishing Program in Port Hueneme, California, which teaches local kids to fish and takes them on excursions to nearby Channel Islands National Marine Sanctuary. This is Kevin's Story from the Blue.

The Reel Guppy Program is a program I started here locally in Port Hueneme, knowing that our neighborhood needed something positive and free for kids to do. It's a way to show kids the outdoors and introduce them to fishing, which they might not otherwise get an opportunity to do. Most of these kids don't even go to the beach, and it's right in their backyard. We supply the resources – fishing poles, bait, gear – so it's no cost to them, and teach them about the environment and about stewardship for the ocean.

I grew up in the system – single-parent home, foster care – and now I want to give back to those kids. I've loved fishing my whole life. We used to fish in the creek for crawdad and carp, and I started fishing out on the Port Hueneme pier when I was about seven years old. I used a drop line with a hook I found on the floor, and a little piece of bait out of the fillet sink. It just kind of escalated from there.

Through the Reel Guppy Outdoor Program, we've taken over 3,000 kids out fishing. That's 3,000 kids catching a memory that will last them a lifetime, and it's starting new adventures for families. If they catch something they can eat, we process it for them and show them how, and they take it home. A lot of them come back and tell a story about how they cooked it.

A girl and a boy fishing off a dock
Brannon's son and daughter often volunteer with the Reel Guppy program. Photo: Nick Zachar/NOAA

One of the coolest things we do is take kids out to Channel Islands National Marine Sanctuary, which is just nine miles away. People come from around the world to enjoy the sanctuary, but our kids don't really get exposed to it. When we bring them there, they can see what a healthy ecosystem looks like. They catch the memories of seeing healthy seagrass or dolphins swim by. To hear them jumping up and down on the boat excited to see this, it makes even our volunteers get teary-eyed. Some of these kids might want to be marine biologists, and where's a greater place to study than their own backyard?

Some of these kids might want to be marine biologists, and where's a greater place to study than their own backyard?”

The Reel Guppy Outdoor Program all started with family. It started with my kids – they've been in it since the beginning. I can see them now getting older, leading by example and helping out more. Our job here on Earth is to help and give back.

Basically, I live my dream every day with my family, teaching people about fishing and Channel Islands National Marine Sanctuary. I get to share that with my kids, and then they'll share it with their kids, and that's what fishing's all about.