Anthony Wayne Fishing Club Hooks Kids Into Outdoor Sport

The Wednesday evening group of the Anthony Wayne Fishing Club poses for a photo with Ohio Department of Natural Resources Lucas County wildlife officer Anthony Lemle.

BY KAREN GERHARDINGER | MIRROR REPORTER — Carter Nietrzeba cast his line into the water at Blue Creek Metropark and waited patiently.

“When I go camping, I always fish,” said the 9-year-old – one of more than 80 members of the new Anthony Wayne Fishing Club.

Nearby, 12-year-old Ethan Metzger held up a small green sunfish. While he goes fishing with his dad and grandfather, Ethan was excited to join the Anthony Wayne Youth Foundation’s newest club sport when it launched last month.

Friends Lucas Kervin and Kyle Norman, who volunteer with the Anthony Wayne Youth Foundation (AWYF) sensed that kids might be interested in fishing. Looking for experienced board members, they brought in Louis Pawliski and Kenneth LeGrand – who had been members of the Anthony Wayne High School Fishing Club before graduating in 2017. 

“All of us have taught kids to fish before,” said LeGrand. “My grandpa and my dad took me fishing as soon as I could sit up in a boat. We caught pan fish and then I got into bass fishing on my own. I’ve taught my cousins, my siblings and their friends how to fish.”

Teaching 80 kids to fish at once is a bit of a challenge, he said. When the AWYF opened up registration, he expected to have just 20 to 40 youths sign up. Instead, 20 were signed up in the first 30 minutes.

With 146 wanting to join, the AW Fishing Club board decided to split the sessions into two groups of 40 each, based on the number of volunteers willing to help, for a 5-1 ratio of youths to adults.

“We have a very diverse mix of kids,” LeGrand said of the youths in grades 3-8. “We have kids from every single age group, both male and female.”

The biggest prerequisite: a desire to learn how to fish. About half of the students have some experience in fishing already.

Abbie Schroeder, 9, goes fishing with her dad. Hadley Hutt, 9, said she loves fishing with her grandpa. 

“It’s something for them to do together,” said Hadley’s mom, Amy Hutt. “They go to the Maumee River, or out on charter boats or to a friend’s lake.”

For Carter, the Anthony Wayne Fishing Club is an opportunity to participate in a sport that’s no-contact, said his mom, Brittany Nietrzeba. Carter has Marfan’s Syndrome, so contact sports are out of the question. Through the Make-A-Wish Foundation, Carter received a camper two years ago – allowing the family to go camping regularly at spots where Carter can fish. The club provides an opportunity for him to meet other kids who share the same interests, Nietrzeba said.

“It’s great that they have this for kids who maybe aren’t interested in contact sports or can’t do them,” she added.

The AWFC goal is to give students the basics so they can be prepared to fish on their own or with friends – and someday teach someone else to fish, said AWYF executive director Taylor Kervin.

During the first week of the six-week class, each student received a fishing pole and tackle box, with instructions on how to assemble the pole, tie a knot and cast correctly into the grass. 

Anthony Lemle, the Ohio Department of Natural Resources wildlife officer for Lucas County, gave a rundown on the rules of fishing, including bag limits and fair chase – such as not hooking a fish anywhere but the mouth.

“Less than 5 percent of the population in the United States does hunting, fishing and trapping,” Lemle said, encouraging the new anglers to set a good example by removing lines, bait containers and other trash after fishing. 

As they worked on assembling their poles the first day, Jackson Brace and Joshua Brock said they were ready to hit the quarry.

“I’m going to try to get a 10-pound bass,” Jackson declared.

Brothers Victor and Garrick Robie raced to see who could tie a knot faster, as Pawliski gave them encouragement.

During the first few weeks, the focus was on equipment, tying knots, setting up bobbers and panfish. The remainder of the season will include lessons on catfish, small mouth and large mouth bass and other types of bass fishing. Throughout the six-week season, the kids will also get exposed to a variety of fishing locations, including the large Blue Creek Quarry (the former Nona France Quarry) and smaller quarry pond on Schadel Road, the Whitehouse Park quarry, the Maumee River at Side Cut Metropark and Farnsworth Metropark, and Oak Openings’ Mallard Lake, where the kids will celebrate with an end-of-season cookout.

“The best outcome would be to introduce kids to fishing and the outdoors. A lot of kids are not getting introduced to that,” LeGrand said. “Fishing is a life lesson they can take with them in the future. I would like to have these kids ready so they can go fishing on their own and would sign up for later classes.”

Eventually, the AWFC board would like to provide some lessons in fly fishing or how to tie flies. Pawliski, also a 2017 AWHS graduate, launched his Krusty Lures brand while still in high school. He continues to make and sell lures, when time allows, to area bait shops. It’s an art that requires know-how and supplies, but the AWFC hopes to introduce students to the idea next year.

Watching the students lined up around the Blue Creek Quarry last month, LeGrand saw them reeling in blue gill, sunfish and bass.

“If we can see more kids fishing after this, then I’d consider it a success,” LeGrand said. 

For more information on the fishing club and other AWYF sports, visit https://awyf.sportngin.com.

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