Most of the 121 anglers participating in the Nanticoke Conservation Club’s ice fishing derby at Frances Slocum State Park last Saturday were veterans of the “hard water” style of fishing.
But in one corner of the 165-acre lake was a group of 12 anglers new to the sport, but just as enthusiastic as the rest.
A dozen scouts from Bear Den Pack 241 in Lehman Township turned out early to take part in the club’s ice fishing skills clinic to learn the basics of angling through the ice before heading out onto the lake to man the jigging poles and tip-ups.
The experience left many of the scouts wanting to do it again.
“I really like that this lets you fish in any weather,” said scout Stephen Kapsick, 9. “It was fun to learn how to drill the hole and catch a fish through it.”
The club has been holding the annual ice fishing derby for the last 17 years, offering cash prizes to those who catch the largest fish and a hands-on lesson for those who want to learn how it’s done.
The lesson begins with an hour in the classroom with certified instructor Phil Levandoski, Walt Levandoski and Jack Brieta, who covered a range of topics, including safety, how to rig a tip-up and the types of bait to use, followed by an afternoon on the ice.
“We cover just about everything in the classroom before they come out here,” Phil Levandoski said. “They’re very receptive, but at a point in time they’re ready to get out on the ice.”
The fishing was a bit slow at the lake last Saturday, but several of the scouts did land fish.
Eight-year-old Damian Napierkowski caught a bluegill with a jigging rod for his first catch through the ice.
“My bobber went down and when I pulled it up I felt the fish on,” he said. “It was exciting and I’d like to do this again.”
The club has given ice fishing clinics to numerous girl and boy scout groups in addition to school classes and church groups over the years. Club president Gary Gronkowski said short of teaching the kids how to clean fish, the clinic takes them full circle from learning how to ice fish to actually doing it.
“This has become as much a part of the derby as anything,” Gronkowski said. “Even if only one child shows up, we’ll do the clinic.”
Dave Kapsick, who is the assistant leader for Pack 241, said the clinic came at the perfect time for the scouts because there aren’t many outdoor activities for them to do in the middle of winter. He said his son, Stephen, has been asking to go ice fishing and now he is hooked on the sport.
“We couldn’t have done this without the club,” Kapsick said. “We try to give our kids experience with things they haven’t done before, and I’m sure after ice fishing for the first time many will want to do it again.”
The kids weren’t the only ones ice fishing for the first time. Many of the parents in attendance had also never fished through the ice before.
Being able to share the experience with his son, Michael, made the day even more memorable, according to Frank Battin of Shavertown.
“This is the first time I ice fished, so for the scouts to be able to do it at their age is a great opportunity,” Battin said. “I mentioned ice fishing to my son and he was all for it. This is something they’ll remember for a long time.”