When Kaleb Gardner went fishing during warmer months, he didn't catch anything. "Although I caught seaweed," the 8-year-old said while peering over the edge of an ice hole at Beaver Creek Reservoir Wednesday morning. His grandfather was watching when Gardner pulled a perch, his first fish, from the hole that was drilled through a foot of ice. He was patiently waiting to catch a second. Theron Whitman said he learned a lot during the excursion, as well, since he had never been ice fishing before either. He was visiting from Idaho Falls, Idaho, and said that Gardner wanted him to come with him. Gardner, along with other third-graders at Lincoln McKinley and St. Jude Thaddeus Catholic School, spent time Monday learning about ice fishing and ice safety from Fish, Wildlife and Parks. The Hooked on Fishing program touts fishing as a fun way to stay out of trouble but also integrates core curriculum aspects. "It's a good excuse to make them learn some of the science and math," said Dave Hagengruber, an angler education coordinator with FWP. Using basic skills to measure the ice and fish is a good example of how the students get to use classroom lessons in a real world setting, he said. FWP works with the students throughout the year and does activities like fish identification, dissection, fish art, lure making, fish jeopardy and a worldwide water distribution project. More than 200 schools statewide participate in the program, which also encompasses other elements, like free public access to fishing poles. Tuesday and Wednesday, the students got to put their new skills to work. Holding rods with maggots on the end of the hooks, they waited patiently for the tip of the poles to bob, signaling an interested fish. Others enjoyed a fish spearing demonstration. Some peered through the icy portals, waiting for fish to grab bait and spring a flag on the tip-up over the hole. Some went high-tech and watched on a Vexilar for a red line Symbolizing a nearby fish. For many of them, it was not only their first excursion ice fishing but also their first experience fishing. Plopped comfortably in a snowbank and holding his pole with the bait dangling 50 feet below the surface, 9-year-old Ethan Mahns said he's excited about ice fishing. He's fished for trout before, but never for perch through the ice. He likes to fish, he said, "because I get to eat the fish sometimes." Ice fishing and the outdoors are a significant part of Montanans' heri tage, said Rick Harman, whose grandson fished Tuesday. Harman, a lifelong fisherman and a member of the Fresno Chapter of Walleyes Unlimited, was back on the ice Wednesday volunteering to help the youngsters. Watching them catch their first fish makes standing in the wind and cold worth it. "That in and of itself is worthwhile," he said. It's exciting for the children and for the adults, too, he added. Katelyn Luse was one of the first to snag a perch. She has spent time on the ice before and was having fun Wednesday. She'd like to go again, she said, peering out from her jacket hood. One thing she won't be doing anytime soon, though, is kissing fish. She said she knows she's supposed to for luck. "But I don't want to."
Hooked on Fishing
Local third-graders try their luck ice fishing
Published: Thursday, February 11th, 2010
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