Hunter Ed graduate great in classroom – even better at the lake
“You’re going to enjoy fishing with this young lady!”
Those were the words of fellow Region 3 Chief Hunter Education Instructor Jim Rich last August as he told me who the just completed resident Hunter Education Honor Graduate was.
That honor was bestowed on 14-year-old Aryana Thayer who lives in Lake Havasu City. The daughter of Brad and Nicole Shelton, Aryana had been chosen by the volunteer hunter education instructor staff as the top student in her class.
As a result, Ary, as she likes to be called, was awarded an overnight fishing trip to Lake Mead with a parent or guardian.
I wasn’t able to teach during that class due to a prior commitment, but I had complete faith in my fellow instructors that they had chosen an outstanding student.
And when I finally met this perky young lady, it didn’t take long for me to see why she had been selected.
Ary is intelligent, articulate and respectful, something I unfortunately don’t see a lot of in a segment of our young people today.
Also going on the trip was fellow instructor Jay Chan, who was one of Ary’s instructors in her two weekend class.
Ary was accompanied on the trip by her step-father Brad Shelton and her uncle, Joe Ochoa.
The plan was to meet in Meadview, have dinner and then load up for a night’s fishing on Lake Mead near South Cove.
The group jumped right in and offered to do whatever was needed to make the trip successful.
Ary started to cut bait while the rest of us performed other tasks that need to be done before going out on the lake.
My fishing trips are a little different from most. I call it an “Interactive trip” where the persons who are fishing with us help with the pre- and post-fishing trip chores.
I think it helps build a team spirit, where everyone feels some ownership on how the trip is going.
The one concern that Jay and I both had was that it was essentially going to be a full moon night; a time when traditionally the fish don’t bite as well as they do on dark nights.
But Ary had been waiting for almost a year for her trip, and Jay and I were determined to make the best of it.
We arrived at the spot we wanted to fish, and Jay put out some chum I had made. Then we settled in and started fishing.
I put the first fish in the boat and then it was Ary, who landed her first ever striped bass.
I should note that the most fish Ary had ever caught was six. Both Jay and I told her that we thought she was going to do much better than that.
Ary was sitting in a spot in the boat where I could see her fishing poles and help her when I saw a striper or catfish bite. We proved to be a good team and the fish were more than accommodating. At least they were for her. Despite being right next to her I felt like I was fishing in a “no fish” zone. Bites for me came few and far between.
Since the trip was for Ary, as an acknowledgment of her hard work and dedication during her class, I was OK with that, though, I got to tell you, I’m not used to getting beat by a young angler.
And it wasn’t just Ary that was getting bites and putting fish in the boat. Her dad and uncle also were catching a lot.
Jay was doing OK, but it was obvious this trip was destined to be a great one for Ary and her family.
Ary not only caught a lot of stripers, but she also caught her first ever channel cat as well.
As the night gave way to dawn, the young lady was starting to show signs of being tired. But she still managed to catch a lot more fish than Jay or I did.
The final tally was the team put 139 fish in the boat. We got 117 stripers and 22 channel cats.
Ary took top honors for stripers, and caught the heaviest one of the trip. Brad took top honors for the largest channel cat, landing a bruiser than weighed 3 lbs. 8 oz.
When we got back to Meadview everyone again chipped in to do chores. We were able to process the fish in just over two hours.
I asked Ary if she had a good time and she replied with an emphatic, “Yes!”
She had caught almost four times as many fish as she had on any previous fishing trip. And Brad said that he too had caught more fish than he had ever caught before.
Fishing with these young anglers and their family is especially fun and rewarding. They make memories not only for the young anglers and families, but for those of us who are able to help them go out on these trips.