Fishing teaches lessons, builds bridges at Valley High School in New Kensington
Something was fishy at Valley High School on Wednesday.
The annual fish-for-fun day for fourth-graders was sponsored by Arnold and New Kensington police.
The fishing day was established about four years ago by the Arnold and New Kensington police chiefs and New Kensington Patrolman Joe Locke, a previous school resource officer.
“Joe called me several times making sure that this would continue,” said New Kensington Patrolman Matt Saxman, who is the school resource officer. “What happens is the kids see police in a different light. We are building rapport.”
Brown, rainbow and golden rainbow trout, obtained from a hatchery and all at least 14 inches long, were biting, and the weather cooperated.
The students are learning about ecology, what is necessary for fish to live, and how trout live in the wild, said Superintendent John Pallone.
More than a dozen high school juniors and seniors helped nearly three dozen younger students with finding just the right bait, baiting hooks and learning the importance of patience.
Josiah Wilson, a fourth-grader from New Kensington, said he has fished a few times and was enjoying the chance again.
He managed to hook one of the largest trout of the day and was reeling it in when his line caught on a stone and some brush.
Saxman grabbed a net and hit the dirt. He was reaching out from the bank as far as he could, but the inevitable happened: The line snapped and the big one got away.
Josiah got his hook baited again and was back at it.
“It happens,” he said, concentrating on his line and the trio of golden and brown trout just 15 feet away.
Classmate Ariel Rochlinski, also from New Kensington, said she was having fun.
“This is my first time fishing,” she said.
“Catching fish,” she said.
How many has she caught?
“Zero,” she said, making the symbol with one hand.
Dozens of people and businesses donated to the event, Saxman said.
Allegheny Bait and Tackle in Tarentum helped the police and school to replace rods and reels.
“They gave us a deal, and we appreciate it,” Saxman said.
Charlene Webb of New Kensington caught two rainbows.
“I’m trying for a golden one,” she said. “I like it because it’s fun, and you learn something new from the trout.”
Upperclassman Jay Jackson was mentoring fourth-grader Ethan Ofiesh. They’re both from New Kensington.
“I’ve been fishing since I was 2,” Jackson said, after helping Ethan catch a bragging-sized rainbow.
“This was my first one,” Ethan remarked with a broad smile. “I’ve never fished before.”
Neither had Rauna Deem.
“It’s fun,” she said. “I will do this again, even though no one else in my family fishes.”
About 30 fish were pulled from Little Puckety Creek and then put on ice.
The fish will be donated to Knead Community Cafe in New Kensington, Saxman said.
Saxman was impressed by the volunteer turnout: “Did you see all of the officers who stopped by even if they weren’t here helping?”
Chuck Biedka is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Chuck at 724-226-4711, [email protected] or via Twitter .