Wednesday, April 25, 2018
Education

Fishing competitions get kids interested in wetting a line

CLEARWATER — It's sunset on Pier 60 and the clowns, jugglers and magicians have attracted quite a crowd. But the teenagers, dozens of them carrying fishing poles, don't seem to notice, rushing past as if they were late for class.

"This is where the action is," says 16-year-old John Ramirez of Tarpon Springs. "This is where I want to be."

Ramirez, a junior at Tarpon Springs High School, is your typical teenager. He plays basketball, likes to hang out with his buddies and, when given the opportunity, wet a line.

"But this is different," he explained. "This is a competition — us against them. Guess who's going to win."

Friday night lights

It started with an email.

Clearwater High's principal challenged his counterpart at Tarpon Springs High to a little friendly competition.

"I didn't even know we had a fishing team," confessed Tarpon's Clint Herbic. "But I fired back … 'Challenge accepted.' "

Herbic and Clearwater's Keith Mastorides are friends and colleagues. Both are career educators who look for ways to engage the quieter students, the young men and women who may not be football heroes or student council leaders, but still want something special to be a part of.

"These kids have all kinds of pressure and distractions that we never had to deal with growing up," Mastorides said. "It can be hard."

So when he heard that a local angler had put together a program to introduce high school students to one of America's favorite pastimes, he jumped at the opportunity to participate.

The two schools met March 2 under the lights on Clearwater's iconic fishing pier. Each team brought two squads, and they took turns fishing.

"We wanted to minimize tangled lines," said Jim Simons, who introduced fishing clubs to Pinellas County's school system. "And we wanted everybody to have the same chance to fish. After all, it's all about the kids."

After two hours of fishing, the final score was 98-87, Tarpon Spongers over Clearwater Tornadoes. Tournament director Jim Madden, deputy superintendent of the school system, presented the winner's trophy as both teams cheered.

"I think we have started something here," Simons told Madden. "We have already received requests from other schools ready to issue their own challenges."

A place of anglers

Simons is a former accountant who built the international World Billfish Series into one of the most prestigious big game fishing tournament tours. When he heard an old Gulf Coast Museum of Art property was available, he immediately saw it as a place where anglers could gather.

"Just picture thousands of schoolchildren coming here every year to learn about the culture and history of a sport that has helped make the Tampa Bay area what it is," Simons said as he led a group of friends and benefactors through the new Florida Gulf Coast Center For Fishing & Interactive Museum. "This will be one field trip they never will forget."

The facility, off Walsingham Road in Largo's Pinewood Cultural Park, will show off everything from fishing simulators to a working space for marine artists when it opens April 1. But the fishing club program, which kicked off last month in 13 of the county's 17 public high schools, already has more than 1,000 students participating.

"The response has been phenomenal," Simons said. "We are ready to move into the middle schools and then the elementary schools. Our goal is to have over 10,000 students in school fishing clubs by the end of 2012."

Happily unconnected

The Tarpon-Clearwater competition drew about 60 anglers and at least as many supporters and fans.

Herbic and Mastorides were ecstatic. "Just look around you … kids from Clearwater and Tarpon hanging out together," Herbic said. "And everybody is smiling."

Mastorides said he was especially happy to see kids focusing on something other than an electronic screen. "They call this the connected generation," he said. "Right now these kids are as unconnected as they can get."

Simons, meanwhile, hopes he can continue to gather the financial and volunteer support to keep the program going.

"Our goal is to encourage children to stay in school and teach children about life through fishing," said the father of five.

"We think fishing is a great way to strengthen the relationships between children and adults. There are more than 51,000 fishing license holders in Pinellas County alone, and we could use their help."

Terry Tomalin can be reached at [email protected]

Comments
Hillsborough says its teachers are well-paid; the teachers say it’s not true. Who’s right?

Hillsborough says its teachers are well-paid; the teachers say it’s not true. Who’s right?

TAMPA — Seeking to show that Hillsborough County school officials waste money that could go to teacher raises, union director Stephanie Baxter-Jenkins talked about highly paid administrators. She talked about legal fees paid to outside firms when in-...
Updated: 3 hours ago
Sheriff: Sunlake SRO who took down student ‘did what he had to do’

Sheriff: Sunlake SRO who took down student ‘did what he had to do’

At a news conference on Wednesday, Nocco identified the officer as Richard Stackon, who joined the Sheriff’s Office in 1994. Stackon has spent "several years" as an SRO, Nocco said, and he had nothing in his file "that stands out." Around 1 p.m., Noc...
Updated: 6 hours ago
Converting Ridgewood High generates excitement, dismay

Converting Ridgewood High generates excitement, dismay

NEW PORT RICHEY — Chris Dunning is a bundle of energy as he greets families to Wendell Krinn Technical High School’s first open house.He talks rapid fire about the opportunities to earn college credits and gain career training while also completing a...
Updated: 7 hours ago
Hernando schools superintendent ‘pink-slipped’ by public following firing of 47 teachers at Moton Elementary

Hernando schools superintendent ‘pink-slipped’ by public following firing of 47 teachers at Moton Elementary

BROOKSVILLE –– A room full of people wearing purple erupted in frustration before Hernando County school officials Tuesday night, scolding Superintendent Lori Romano for her recent firing of 47 teachers at Moton Elementary, which has been struggling ...
Updated: 9 hours ago
Hernando school officials deny Chehuntamo charter school on second try

Hernando school officials deny Chehuntamo charter school on second try

BROOKSVILLE — The Hernando County School Board on Tuesday denied the 2019 opening of Chehuntamo Advanced Performance High School, a charter school proposed by the same group that applied once before in 2017.The team behind the school, said to be for ...
Updated: 9 hours ago
Hernando School Board okays second district-wide survey to evaluate superintendent

Hernando School Board okays second district-wide survey to evaluate superintendent

BROOKSVILLE — A second district-wide survey to evaluate the performance of Superintendent Lori Romano soon will go out to about 3,000 Hernando County School District employees, giving them a chance to weigh in on the job she is doing.The instrument, ...
Updated: 10 hours ago
Hillsborough’s Eakins gets high praise for finances, mixed reviews on other issues in his annual School Board evaluations

Hillsborough’s Eakins gets high praise for finances, mixed reviews on other issues in his annual School Board evaluations

TAMPA — Hillsborough County Public Schools Superintendent Jeff Eakins is proud of his record in boosting high school graduation rates and inroads he has made in marketing the nation’s eight largest school district.His seven bosses on the School Board...
Published: 04/25/18
Sarasota student, family apologize for racist ‘promposal’

Sarasota student, family apologize for racist ‘promposal’

The family of the 18-year-old Sarasota high school student under fire for the racist prom proposal he sent out on social media this weekend has publicly apologized for their son’s actions. They also said that as a result of his actions, he wil...
Published: 04/24/18
Updated: 04/25/18
SRO being investigated in Pasco County for arrest of student

SRO being investigated in Pasco County for arrest of student

LAND O’LAKES — A school resource officer at Sunlake High School is under investigation after he tried to take a female student into custody on Tuesday, according to the Pasco County Sheriff’s Office.School officials asked the SRO remove the student f...
Published: 04/24/18

Battle continues over west Pasco school rezoning

Jim Stanley does not give up without a fight.The west Pasco County parent who brought down the school district’s 2017 attendance zone revisions, leading the administration to change its procedures along the way, has filed a new challenge to the syst...
Published: 04/24/18