For fifth-graders Fernanda Reyes and Drew Micolites, the elementary school fishing festival held March 26 at Green Valley Park was an opportunity to escape the classroom and enjoy a bit of newfound liberties.
“I just caught my first fish, it is so much fun,” Reyes said. “I’ve never been fishing before.”
Micolites, clutching a nice-sized rainbow trout, chimed in, “I’ve been here before with my dad, it’s great (especially) on a school day.”
The two were among the about 200-plus students who participated in the free fishing clinic held on the two small artificial lakes on the south side of GVP.
Their teachers, who had earlier issued each of the pupils a small-personalized plastic bag to place their catch in, escorted the students to the park.
Pirch leads group
A small group of volunteers, led by Payson Roundup outdoors columnist and former Payson High School teacher and coach Dennis Pirch, expertly cleaned each of the trout for the students lucky enough to hook one.
The students then placed their fish in the bag and later into an ice chest. At the end of the school day, teachers distributed them the children who were to take them home — hopefully to become a lip-smacking meal.
Not all the students, however, took home their catch.
“My mom said I couldn’t bring home a fish, so I threw mine back,” said one fifth-grader who had landed about a 2-pound lunker.
Because many of the youngsters had never fished before, a contingent of expert volunteers, including Arizona Game and Fish officers, were on hand to offer instruction and untangle scrambled fishing lines.
For the event, AG&F provided an array of poles and pre-stocked the GVP lakes with catchable-sized rainbows.
Participating were students from Julia Randall, Payson Elementary, Tonto Basin, Pine, Frontier Elementary and Shelby schools.