By Craig Nyhus
Lone Star Outdoor News
In April, Pete Martinez, who teaches the Outdoor Adventures program at Mercedes Chacon Middle School, took four students on their first on-the-water fishing trip, thanks to Lone Star Outdoor News Foundation and a donation from Dallas’ Fishing Discussion Group.
The first four were all boys.
On June 7, it was the girls’ turn.
“It was hard to pick them, they all wanted to go,” Martinez, who also guides out of Port Mansfield, said. “The problem was narrowing it down.”
After getting the names of some of the 70 students who take his class, Martinez passed the buck to the school’s principal.
“We had to make sure they were all passing and in good standing,” he said.
Kristen Garcia, Brianna Moya and Audrey Reyes made the trip. Audrey’s brother Mando tagged along.
The trip was a little more challenging than a boat full of boys.
“It took them a while to learn to cast — we used popping corks and Gulps,” Martinez said. “The girls thought they would be just sitting there waiting for a bite, and they didn’t think it would work. The first part of the day was a little tough — but once they figured it out and caught fish, they were really excited.”
There were a few additional challenged Martinez didn’t anticipate.
“We had to take a few restroom breaks,” he said.
The group was able to experience birds working along the shoreline.
“Every 100 to 200 yards, there were pods of birds working,” Martinez said. “I pointed out what the birds were doing and which birds more likely meant there were fish underneath them.”
The youngsters landed numerous small speckled trout, with nine keepers.
“I knew there would be a lot of small ones there,” Martinez said. “But the kids don’t care, that was the hook that has them interested in fishing.”
One girl wouldn’t touch a fish at first. Another caught a gafftop and the girls wondered what it was.
After the trip, the group received instruction on filleting the fish, and then went back to the boat to learn how to wash it off and clean it after a saltwater trip.
“I want them to learn for when they take their parents someday,” Martinez said. “Most of the kids had never been on a boat and had never fished until they took my class.”
The students fish for carp and catfish in a canal near the school as part of the course, and many take their parents to the same canal on weekends.
Martinez believes his course is making a difference.
“The kids do well and their behavior and attitude improves in all of their classes,” he said.
The story of the boy’s trip was included in the April 22 issue of Lone Star Outdoor News.