by Lisa Tome
Ernie Miller has worked to get kids hooked on fishing.
Miller, a teacher and coach at North East High School, is leading the school's newly formed Fishing Club and Team.
"In the beginning of the year we had a Club Day and this got a huge response," said Miller.
He actually started before the school year. When Cecil County hosted the Bassmaster Elite fishing tournament last year, Miller started doing some research. "I met people there and they were very helpful. I have a lot of contacts now," said Miller.
"This was unchartered territory. I know how much kids love fishing. They can do it even if they are not the most athletic," said Miller.
More than a dozen students, both boys and girls, in grades 9-12 signed up for the club and paid membership dues. Miller is also placing an emphasis on community service. Already club members went to North East Community Park and cleaned up along the river. "That's a way for us to give back," Miller said.
The school's club has many purposes. Part will be for those who just enjoy fishing but who aren't interested in doing it competitively. The Fishing Team will compete against other high schoolers at various events. Miller is hoping other schools will also form competitive teams. "The club is for anyone and everyone. The fishing team is for anyone who wants to do it legitimately. There is a high school fishing tournament with New Jersey, Maryland, Delaware, and Pennsylvania," said Miller.
He is also recruiting people with bass boats who will volunteer to take students out fishing. Those interested may contact him at North East High.
The club has been meeting two or three times a month. They are also looking to get sponsors who will help them get fishing jerseys. Future plans also include hosting a fishing derby with the Boys and Girls Club in July.
Miller is also hoping to instill a lifelong love of fishing in the club members. "You can have a good, family fun day for $10 in worms. It's about bonding and having fun. It's what me and my dad used to do," said Miller.
Chandler Brooks spent his 17th birthday on a field trip with the fishing club. "I want to be here or on the river. Fishing is more fun with friends," said Brooks.
Kyle Oaks, 16, has been fishing his whole life. "I've wanted to be with other fishermen. It teaches me patience and it's fun to be with my friends," said Oaks.
Herb Weichmann and Joe Booker, staffers at Precision Tackle in North East hosted the club last week during an after school trip to the tackle shop. They answered questions and offered fishing tips.
"It's a great sport. It teaches you a lot about the outdoors," said Weichmann. "And it gets more expensive (the longer you do it). But the more time on the water the better. Not everyone wants to play football. But everyone wants to fish."
"You get up early, you go to bed late and you get up and do it all over again," said Booker. He also told the club members about potentially earning college scholarships for fishing.