Photos: St. Cloud Somali youth celebrate Eid, get schooled in fishing

Mark Hauck of the Minnesota DNR helps Yusuf Ahmed use the rod and reel.
Mark Hauck of the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources helps first-time angler Yusuf Ahmed from St. Cloud use the rod and reel Tuesday at Lake George in St. Cloud, Minn. The DNR and St. Cloud and Stearns County park departments joined the Somali community in an event to celebrate Eid-al-Fitr, which marks the end of Ramadan.
Paul Middlestaedt for MPR News

An Eid al-Fitr celebration in St. Cloud offered a chance for young Somali Americans to mark the holiday and connect with the outdoors — through fishing.

Families celebrating the end of the holy month of Ramadan with an outdoor picnic and bounce houses Tuesday near Lake George were also offered a chance to try their hand at baiting a hook and casting a line.

Mark Hauck with the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources worked with the St. Cloud and Stearns County park departments to introduce people to fishing and other outdoor recreation who haven't had the chance to experience much of it before.

Hauck had heard from members of St. Cloud's Somali community that they were interested in fishing, but didn't have much knowledge of the sport.

So, he thought, since Lake George is a good place to fish and a spot where St. Cloud families would be celebrating Eid, why not combine the two?

"We have for many years have been recruiting and retaining and trying to get more people out into nature," Hauk said.

Mohayadin Mohamed likes the idea. He's president of the Islamic Center of St. Cloud.

He says fishing is something he would like to teach his children, but he doesn't know how.

"We want to create some kind of interest for our community, especially for the younger children that were born in Minnesota, who really want to do those kind of things, to learn those skills," he said. "As a parent, I may never have done fishing, but my kids will do better. Since we have 10,000 lakes in Minnesota, it's a good thing to try. It's one of the good sports in Minnesota. We didn't have that in Somalia."

Somalia actually has more than 1,800 miles of coastline, the longest of any African country. And fishing is an important industry.

But Mohamed says many younger Somali Americans didn't grow up there. Their families fled during the civil war and they grew up in other countries like the United States.

"So they don't have that kind of memory. So it's good to bring that back and learn and teach our kids."

And organizations like the DNR have been ramping up their efforts to connect with communities they'd overlooked before, Hauck said.

"So we recognize that as our population gets older, fewer and fewer people are recreating outdoors. And so we're really conscious of that, and we want to make sure we're providing as much opportunity as we can for people to get out. And either if they don't know how to, learn how to, or reinvigorate something they've done in the past."

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