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CRENSHAW : Boat Trip Is a Reel Adventure for Youths

July 25, 1993|ERIN J. AUBRY

Businessman Ron Smothers says what compelled him to give back to community youth is an old fish story.

"When I was a kid, someone from a local Boys Club took me fishing, and it changed my life," said Smothers, 49, the owner of two Burger King franchises in the Crenshaw district. "Here's a chance for me to kind of return the favor."

Determined to share his childhood experience with inner-city children, Smothers last week took 26 children from the Crenshaw YMCA's summer sports camp on a chartered boat to test the waters--in more ways than one. They set out from Marina del Rey.

Taraja Ramsses, 12, said it took him a while to get his sea legs, but proudly pointed out that he caught 21 fish.

"This was my first time going, and I had a lot of fun, " he said, clutching a plastic bag filled with mackerel. "At first I needed help, but then I got to used to it."

Kristen Willis, 9, said the most memorable part of the trip was spying shark fins circling the Del Mar.

"That was scary!" she said.

Smothers, a member of the Marina del Rey Anglers and coordinator of the club's annual fishing trip for Los Angeles-area youths, and several other club members guided the youngsters through the basics.

Smothers said that most of the youngsters were initially hesitant, especially when it came to handling the bait of live anchovies.

But "by the end of the day, they did everything for themselves," he said.

Chris Kindle, a tall 13-year-old and the senior member of the YMCA group, said that although he had fished before at the Kenneth Hahn Recreation Area in Baldwin Hills, deep-sea fishing was completely different.

"We got to watch the fish for a while, and touch them too," he said. "Plus, I made a new friend who works on the boat."

The Anglers have 80 members throughout Los Angeles County who meet monthly and sponsor activities. The youth trip costs the club about $1,000 in chartering fees and equipment rentals. Several businesses donated box lunches, soda and ice.

Smothers, a resident of Central Los Angeles, said fishing offers youths much more than the chance to lower a line into water. The sport, he said, takes them out of the city literally and psychologically.

"Fishing exposes them to a whole different world out in the marina," he said. "We not only fish, I show them my own boat, explain how it works, how to maintain it. It's foreign territory that we take the mystery out of."

There was no mystery for Ryan Fontenot, 8, as he held aloft his catch of sea bass and mackerel. "Tonight," he said with a grin, "I'll have a good dinner."

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