Eleven years ago, Kevin Brannon began an educational program to get kids more involved in fishing and wildlife conservation.
PORT OF HUENEME—On Jan. 5, Reel Guppy Dockside Learning Center announced its ribbon-cutting ceremony and the official launch of the center on Feb. 17.
The Reel Guppy Dockside Learning Center will serve its community by providing multi-media classroom learning spaces, family-centered fishing, conservation workshops, clinics, youth leadership, business programs, aquatic life, maritime history information, and expanding collaboration opportunities with other local organizations.
Reel Guppy Founder Kevin Brannon said his company has been angling for adventure, opportunity, and community education since 2011; Reel Guppy Outdoors Inc. provides local youth and their families with education and fishing outings for free. Their Mission is to provide a positive environment for youth, using outdoor adventures emphasizing education, life-building lessons, leadership, stewardship, and team building. In addition, Reel Guppy aims to empower its participants with the education and skills it takes to enjoy the world’s waters and beaches while promoting good stewardship of natural resources.
“I am a documentary filmmaker,” said Brannon. “I host and produce the TV show called Real Anglers Fishing Show, and about ten years ago, I wanted to do something in my little neighborhood, so I started the Real Anglers Kids Fishing Days. We would do the kind of sporadically; then we decided to go nonprofit, and five years ago we started The Reel Guppies Outdoors.”
Brannon started working on fishing boats at 11-years-old, and when Brannon started filmmaking, he wanted to do a fishing show about California that wasn’t based on catching whoppers or exotic locations, all things that require expensive gear to do; that’s why he calls his company Reel Anglers.
“The reason I say that is because the whole base of our brand, Reel Angler Network, is an educational program,” said Brannon. “Our TV show is about education and how to find the right resources.”
The TV show’s educational aspect is much different from what the Reel Guppy Dockside Learning center will offer.
“It’s [the center] all educationally based; it’s about ecosystems,” said Brannon. “We teach about stewardship, responsible angling, and then we also use that as teaching tools for the program. So, it works for the kids that set goals and use fishing as metaphors for teaching them life-building lessons.”
Until this year, Reel Guppies was run from Brannon’s home. The Port of Hueneme has been one of Brannon’s partners and let him use a classroom a couple of times before the pandemic hit. A local church also let Brannon use their facility a handful of times, showing Brannon what it is like in a classroom format.
“So, it’s like we were getting repetitions on how a classroom would work. Then we got a grant, and we were able to use that to get our own location,” said Brannon.
Reel Guppy Outdoor learned to take advantage of the online platform when the pandemic hit, giving access to kids who live far from the new center’s location.
“So, teachers in the desert would send me a zoom link, and I would go into their (virtual) classroom, and I would send them workbooks,” said Brannon. “One book is called Let’s Go Catch a Memory,” the latest activity book in California that is based on Reel Guppy Outdoors. I send them that, and then we go through the book through a zoom class. So, it’s like an online virtual field trip. So, now we know that we can utilize that as part of our program.”
This online education model allows Reel Guppy Outdoors to not only educate throughout the country, but Reel Guppy Outdoors has also partnered with IGFA (International Game Fish Association), the California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW), and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA). These organizations help by providing guest speakers who discuss fishing-related topics. Brannon then can broadcast and archive it so children can follow up and watch the information on their own schedule.
Brannon has incorporated his filmmaking skills into the center as well.
“With the production company we have, part of the learning center is going to be a multi-media center so we will be able to do a podcast in there, film, have guest speakers that we can record, and then send that out so that anybody can watch it,” said Brannon. “We want our store to be alive, you know, so we can let the kids work on the multi-media part, work with us to develop; these kids are little wizards with devices!”
Brannon wants to work with the older and younger students to help develop audience engagement and utilize young minds to reach other like-minded young anglers.
“At this organization, we really like the kids to get in the mix and help out a lot more,” said Brannon. “They’re going to be part of developing the sophistication of how we could be better with kids and engage in media. So, the center will help with all of that stuff.”
The Ventura Chamber of Commerce and the West Coast Alliance are two organizations attending the grand opening.
“They’re going to come out and do a ribbon cutting from 5-6 p.m.,” said Brannon. “We have a lot of partners from city council members and the marketing that we do as well as face-to-face networking that we’ve been doing, so we’re going to make this a big event and bring out everybody.”
Attending the event will be city council members, small businesses, the harbor manager, and educators; they will be able to check out the new resources the center provides.
“We are going to throw a big ‘old shindig,” said Brannon. “There will be music, a 360-photo booth, and appetizers!”
Reel Guppy Outdoors also wants the event to highlight tourism and activities Channel Islands Harbor offers in an effort to generate more tourism, attention, and education about the harbor.
“We’ve taken over 3,700 kids out so far to participate in our monthly public event or working with all the other organizations
(that Reel Guppy has partnered with,” said Brannon.
The Reel Guppy Outdoors program is free. The children are provided with everything they need, including fishing poles, tackle boxes, tackle, gear, and bait. In addition to the free programs at the center, Reel Guppy Outdoors also hosts a ‘kid’s fishing day’ on the fourth Sunday of every month for free at the Port of Hueneme Pier. In addition, Reel Guppy Outdoors has partnered with other organizations with about 20-40 kids, such as Girl Scouts, Boy Scouts, Trail Life, American Heritage Girls, the foster system, and other at-risk organizations in the area. These groups are provided with additional programs other than the fourth Sunday option.
During the beginning stages of development, Brannon backed the majority of the funding on his own. However, financing was awarded by the Vamos A Pescar grant. Brannon credits the success of his program and the donations awarded to him by his community. Brannon also received a grant from “Liberated Paths – Justice Outside.”
“We have a lot of community support,” said Brannon. “What we have gotten so far from banks and rotary clubs… we used to do an annual boat burger throw down; we would have a couple of boats come down, and a couple of chefs who worked on the sport boats would cook these burgers and fries for us. We would charge about ten bucks and do a couple of raffles, and that was one creative way to try and raise some funding,”
But Brannon has a slogan that he feels best encompasses the teamwork between his program and the community.
“It’s working with the community to serve the community,” said Brannon. “And in Ventura, we all look out for each other. So, when it comes time to do community events, those organizations help. Then there are the donations; people will donate gear that sometimes we can sell at a rummage sale, then we keep the hooks, weights, and poles. The Department of Fish and Wildlife and IGFA has sent us fishing poles to use, so it’s been a big community thing.”
The event will take place in the Channel Islands Harbor in the courtyard to the left of the Fisherman’s Wharf from 5-6 p.m. The center’s address is 2741 S. Victoria Avenue, St. D, Oxnard, Ca. 93041.
Brannon is inviting everyone to his ribbon-cutting ceremony.
Donations are welcomed, and refreshments will be provided at the grand opening.
For more information, contact Kevin Brannon at (805) 248-2166, visit the Reel Guppy Outdoors website, email email@example.com or visit our Facebook page @reelguppyoutdoors.
Donations are welcomed. Refreshments will be provided.
For more information, contact Kevin Brannon at (805) 248-2166 or
firstname.lastname@example.org or visit our Facebook page @reelguppyoutdoors.