The Great Outdoors: Just a solid night of fishing

Hunter Education instructor Page McDonald, left, and Nick, Mike and Joshua Taflan enjoyed  an overnight fishing trip with Hunter Education Chief Instructor Don Martin on Lake Mead. The group caught 64 fish despite inclement weather and a full moon.  (DON MARTIN/Special to the Miner)

Hunter Education instructor Page McDonald, left, and Nick, Mike and Joshua Taflan enjoyed an overnight fishing trip with Hunter Education Chief Instructor Don Martin on Lake Mead. The group caught 64 fish despite inclement weather and a full moon. (DON MARTIN/Special to the Miner)

Teaching Arizona Hunter Education is one of my true passions in life. I believe in it and I enjoy it.

In each resident class that I am part of, my business, Striper Hunters, donates two free trips to a student and his or her parent/guardian.

The first trip is awarded to the student selected by the Hunter Education staff as the class' top student.

That student then pulls a name out of a hat to pick one of the students who were eligible through the "Good Student" program. In that program, any student who exhibits good behavior during the class, causes no disciplinary problems for staff and has all of their homework completed on time is eligible to receive that trip.

These programs have been very popular. It is great to go fishing with those students who have been identified and rewarded as ones who have excelled during our two-weekend class.

The latest trip I got to go on was with Nick Taflan, his brother Joshua, his dad Mike, and fellow Hunter Ed instructor Page McDonald.

Nick was chosen through the Good Student program and had performed above and beyond in the class. He was always raising his hand to answer questions, had his workbook and other assignments completed and done on time, and scored an amazing 98 percent on his final exam.

We scheduled the trip for July 20, which brought up two issues: the possibility of monsoon storms and a full moon.

And true to my predictions, the trip didn't start out so well.

When the Taflans arrived at my Meadview fishing camp, Meadview and Lake Mead had a lot of inclement weather. Rain, wind, thunder and lightning were the order of the evening. I don't go out on the lake if there is a lot of lightning.

But knowing the storms would probably die down, we just sat it out at the house.

Sure enough, the rain stopped around 10 p.m., and off we went.

There were still clouds in the evening sky blocking the full moon, so I hoped we would do OK.

When we arrived at the spot I wanted to fish, there was a light breeze and a just enough rain in the air to keep it comfortable. We had perfect fishing conditions to catch hungry stripers and catfish.

It didn't take long for the fish to start biting.

Nick got the first fish in the boat. Then I got one, Mike got a big one, Page got hooked up and finally Joshua got in the game.

For several hours it was constant action as fish bit and were reeled in.

A lot of good fish were being caught, but Page brought in the largest fish of the night, a chunky striper that weighed exactly 2 pounds.

Then, at about midnight, a big gust of wind signaled the start of over an hour and a half of high winds, big waves and unsettled fishing.

When the wind subsided, we had been blown into a cove where the action was definitely slower.

It seemed the main issue was the moon. The clouds were gone, and the moon in all its glory was over us. The fishing didn't pick up for several hours until the moon finally settled behind a peak.

For Mike, catching catfish seemed fairly easy. The rest of us managed to only pick up a fish here and there.

When we finally got the rods/reels put up early the next morning, I knew we hadn't set any records, but we had caught plenty of good fish.

Mike turned out to be the top angler in the boat, bringing in almost half of the haul. We ended up with 64 fish: 42 stripers, eight channel cats and four yellow cats.

Our best fish weighed 2 pounds, while our best 10 stripers pushed the scales to 17 pounds, 2 ounces.

Our best 40 stripers weighed a very respectable 48 pounds, 6 ounces.

The trip had been a lot of fun, and everyone caught fish.

Last Friday night, I invited Nick to come to our current Hunter Education class and talk about his trip.

He was great, and when asked to recite TAB +1 - which is the No. 1 thing we teach - Nick stood straight up like a Marine at attention and recited it perfectly.

Once again, the young man exhibited the very reason why he deserved the Good Student trip and why I am glad to donate these kinds of trips every year.

This weekend, we will graduate another class, and there will be two happy kids waiting to go fishing next summer.