We enjoyed a striper bonanza!
We don't reward for bad behavior," was my stern message to the more than 30 young people who attended a hunter education class that I was in charge of a couple of years ago.
That message is given at the start of every hunter education class that I am part of as a volunteer chief instructor for the Arizona Game and Fish Department.
In each of our classes that the team of fellow volunteer instructors and I teach, we offer a couple of incentives for the young adults not to become disciplinary problems during the two weekends we have them in class.
One of the incentives is that four of the graduates, known as honor graduates as voted on by a consensus of the instructor staff, have their names sent in to G&F in Phoenix to be entered into a drawing where they could end up on an all-expenses-paid pheasant hunting trip at the Chauncy Ranch near Cordes Junction.
The other incentive that our team does is to offer a night time striper fishing trip with the chief instructor for two students in the class.
One trip automatically goes to the top honor graduate, but the other is selected from the pool of young adults who have not had any disciplinary issues during the class.
The selection is random and we let the top honor graduate pull the name of one lucky student from the hat.
That lucky student a few classes ago was Jake Cave.
Jake was 10-years-old when he took the class, and he finished as our No. 3 graduate, proving that not only is he a good kid but also a great student.
It seemed like everytime we tried to schedule a trip for him and his dad, John, something came up and we couldn't go.
Finally, last week it all came together and the long awaited trip was set to go.
The plan called for me to go to my fishing place in Meadview on Tuesday morning and get things ready while Jake and John would come up after John got off work.
The wind was blowing hard when I got there and I sure didn't want to jeopardize our safety, so we waited until well after sundown when the water at South Cove calmed down.
We headed out around 9 p.m., and after a 30-minute boat ride, stopped and anchored.
It didn't take long for the action to start. We caught a few fish, and if you know kids at all, most of the time they need lots of action to keep them engaged.
Well, Jake hadn't waited for two years just to give up as the fishing was slow at first. He moved around the boat, looking for that spot that would produce him fish.
Finally around 2 a.m., the moon came out and we got a little breeze.
That turned what had been a slow night into one that had a wide-open bite.
John at times couldn't get his pole in the water as Jake was reeling them in one after another!
It didn't take long before we had three ice chests almost full of fish, and Jake had caught more stripers in one trip than he had in his entire life!
Our final tally was this. We caught 101 stripers and four catfish.
We were all happy and Jake acknowledged that it was worth the wait.
Our next two-weekend hunter education class will start on July 31, and we'll start taking pre-registrations on July 1.
If there are any young adults out there who need the class in order to go hunting this fall, make sure you sign up.
And if you study hard and do your homework, and don't have any disciplinary problems during the class, who knows, you might be going on a striper fishing trip to Lake Mead next spring!