Bubbles pop up from underneath the surface of the lake. Pop! Pop! Bloop! The soft, distinguishing sounds ripple the surface of the water. A hook sails out towards its target, lightning quick. It lands with a splash, then the water swiftly surges away in concentric waves. Cormorants circle overhead, diving dangerously low to the water, ready in anticipation. A slight breeze brings comfort in the bright sunlight, trees cast their shadows in every direction, providing pleasant areas for anglers to sit and enjoy their morning. Hundreds of people surround the lake at Mary Jo Peckham Park in Katy, Texas.
Beneath the surface of the lake, the hook dangles feverishly with a worm squirming around in every direction, trying to free itself from its trap. A Channel Catfish, swimming lazily through the murky water, approaches the hook with a curious sense of wonder. Enticed by the alluring aroma of the night-crawler, thrashing wildly, the catfish swiftly grabs hold of the sunken creature. With a snap, it is jerked backwards, tumbling through the lake bottom.
Squirming and twisting vigorously, the fish is dragged end-over-end towards the shoreline, no freedom in sight. The line is tight, zinging with every turn of the crank. Soon, the catfish crests up over the surface of the gleaming water. Small waves crash up and over the silvery, glistening skin. With twenty feet left to go, the docile bottom-feeder makes a rapid jerk left. The angler is caught off-guard and takes two steps forward, re-sets their feet, and digs in for the final fight!
Struggling for what feels like an eternity, the angler keeps cranking the reel, slowly but surely closing the distance between the fish and the shore line. Six feet away…five feet…four feet, three, two, one! Hastily a black net scoops the Ictalurus punctatus abruptly out of the water, into its rubbery clutch. Within seconds, a pair of needle nose pliers are stuck into the mouth, extracting the shiny, barbless 4/0 circle hook. The overjoyed angler carries the long, slimy fish to the measuring station, enthralled with his new catch! The exasperated fish is transposed from the net to a hunter green yard stick.
A tall, lean volunteer helps the young angler hold the catfish in place. He shows how to hold the nose of fish and pinch the tail, then measure the inches from nose to tail. Twenty-three inches is the official length! A new daily record for that measuring station! Following the measurement, the fish receives a pair of fish holders gripping its lower lip. Hesitant, the mindful angler takes control of the writhing catfish, holding it proudly out and high for all to see. With a click from a camera, the youthful angler has the achievement etched in time. Walking back to the shoreline, guided by the volunteer, the confident angler carefully releases the catfish back into the lake.
Moments later, across the lake by a weathered pier, bubbles pop up from underneath the surface. A hook sails out towards its target…
This experience, replicated hundreds of times over, describes the essence of what fishing is all about! The thrill of the catch has driven anglers for centuries and it is what will continue to persuade young anglers to the sport of fishing. Hutsell Elementary, located in the City of Katy, Texas, is a Title 1 school with a large demographic of students that come from economically disadvantaged backgrounds. Hutsell recently celebrated its 40th year anniversary in Katy Independent School District. At Hutsell Elementary, we have a long-standing tradition steeped in angler education.
Our goal with “Take Me Fishing Hutsell” is to bring our students, our families, our staff, our community, and our state together to spend time outdoors engaging in the lifetime sport of fishing. “Take Me Fishing Hutsell” (TMFH) is the premier aquatic education event in the state of Texas run through a public school. Texas Parks and Wildlife is a proud sponsor and partner of our event and constantly refers to Hutsell as the prime example of how to institute a fishing program at school. Hutsell is proudly partnered with Texas Game Wardens, Boy Scouts of America, Fishing’s Future, Katy Police Officer’s Association, Bass Pro Shops, HEB, Katy Rotary Club, Harris County Precinct Three and is supported by over 200 local businesses and charities.
Beginning in the 2006/2007 school year, Take Me Fishing Hutsell was originally called “Take Me Fishing Houston”. It began as a pilot program through Texas Parks and Wildlife with the initiative of bringing Hispanic families together through fishing. Founded by Hutsell Elementary staff members Brenda Shaver, Karen Thornton, Lynne Malfitano, and Becky Sesin, and with the support of Principal Keiko Davidson, “Take Me Fishing Houston/Hutsell” had 15 volunteers and 77 participants. Today, we annually register over 400 participants and 100 volunteers, totaling more than 500 individuals.
Prior to the start of “Take Me Fishing Houston/Hutsell” in 2006/2007, a Katy ISD Physical Education teacher named Mark Fobian, along with fellow teacher Ruth Turner, began a fishing club that became known as “The Golbow Angler and Conservation Club” at Golbow Elementary in the 2002/2003 school year. To get the fishing club started, Mr. Fobian received a $1,000 gift card from a student, Joseph Starks; which he won at a Kidfish Classic event, to help fund the purchase of fishing equipment. The Golbow Angler and Conservation Club branched out in the Texas Parks and Wildlife Take Me Fishing Houston initiative. With the support and partnership of Texas Parks and Wildlife, he began implementing an angler education unit on an annual basis. Mr. Fobian received a grant from the Future Fisherman Foundation (FFF) allowing Golbow to fund the equipment needed to begin their task. With the funding and support in place, Mark developed a fishing club which eventually developed into a grade level fishing field trip.
Brenda Shaver also worked at Golbow during that time while Mark was introducing angler education to the students. She began learning and assisting Mr. Fobian, with the initiative along with the help of Ruth Turner and JoAnn Young. In 2006, Brenda Shaver moved to Hutsell and Mark Fobian moved to Griffin Elementary, thus expanding the fishing education curriculum to multiple campuses in Katy ISD. Dating back two years before Golbow began their fishing education journey, Williams Elementary established an Angler Education club under the direction of PE teacher Kelley Stroud during the 2000/2002 school years. Katy ISD currently has 21 out of 42 elementary schools involved in aquatic education in some form or another. Most schools have either a fishing field trip with one grade level or have a small club they fish with. Hutsell Elementary is the sole campus in Katy ISD to bring aquatic education to the size and scope of “Take Me Fishing Hutsell”.
During the 2006/2007 school year, Hutsell Elementary was awarded the Future Fisherman Foundation Grant as well, becoming the third school in Katy ISD to receive one, the first two being Golbow Elementary and Katy High School. During 2006, there were 84 schools nation-wide to receive the prestigious award and Hutsell was the only school in Texas to be awarded the grant. Fast forward to 2009, the program known as “Take Me Fishing Houston” was no longer considered a pilot program through Texas Parks and Wildlife. Hutsell Elementary asked Texas Parks and Wildlife for the rights to change the name exclusively to “Take Me Fishing Hutsell.” Texas Parks and Wildlife formally grants Hutsell’s request and the annual program has been since known as “Take Me Fishing Hutsell”.
During the 2011/2012 school year, Texas Parks and Wildlife recognized “Take Me Fishing Hutsell” in Austin and former principal, Keiko Davidson represented Hutsell Elementary and was featured in Texas Parks and Wildlife’s state-wide magazine. During the 2012/2013 school year, Robert Brashear was hired as the Hutsell Elementary PE teacher and became the coordinator for “Take Me Fishing Hutsell”, where he currently holds the position. Upon the retirement of Keiko Davidson in the 2013/2014 school year, Dr. Margie Blount was promoted from Assistant Principal to Principal of Hutsell Elementary. Our program, Take Me Fishing Hutsell, is now entering its 13th year in 2019!
In order to prepare students for participating in “Take Me Fishing Hutsell”, children in third, fourth and fifth grade are taught many aquatic and angler skills during their physical education class in the weeks leading up to the event. Some of the topics and skills (but not limited too) are: rules and regulations of fishing in the state of Texas, aquatic conservation, how to cast a fishing pole and safely handle the pole, how to assemble a proper tackle box, how to bait a hook, how to tie several angler knots, how to attach a hook to the fishing line, how to stay safe while fishing and being outdoors, fish identification, length and weight limits on caught fish, fish anatomy, and much more!
From a physical education TEKS standpoint, angler education reinforces the skills of gross motor development, fine motor development, proprioception, and spatial awareness. Casting a fishing pole helps students develop smooth transitions in a manipulative skill setting as well as creating a movement sequence with a beginning, middle, and end. Students learn how to safely use and transport fishing equipment properly which is a key skill in physical education. The technique used in casting out a fishing pole also translates to overhand throwing skills used in a variety of other sports. While students learn how to tie knots, they develop their fine motor skills as well as their ability to concentrate and focus on the task at hand. Students also identify how fishing allows them to be active and participate in an outdoor hobby. Walking to, around, and from ponds, lakes, bays, beaches, or rivers increases cardiovascular levels which boosts health awareness as well. These cross-curricular activities also reinforce several essential TEKS for Math, Science, and History. In a society driven by technology, who can’t benefit from spending more time outside?
During “Take Me Fishing Hutsell” students arrive with their parents and other family members for a morning of aquatic adventure. Students enter Mary Jo Peckham Park in Katy, Texas and register with volunteers from Hutsell. After registering, families are escorted to a safety station where Texas Game Wardens provide educational tips and safety procedures. At the safety station, they also enter for a door prize drawing. Students can win fishing poles, tackle boxes, and a variety of coupons donated by local businesses and restaurants.
Students and families can borrow free fishing equipment to use during the morning, courtesy of Texas Parks and Wildlife, Fishing’s Future, Katy ISD, and Hutsell Elementary. After checking out fishing equipment, families can then take some bait to use. Hotdogs, chicken hearts, earthworms, and chicken livers are donated by local businesses so students can be able to fish for free. Texas Parks and Wildlife also signs a waiver which means that no participants need to purchase a license for the duration of TMFH.
Hutsell families will then surround the pond in Peckham Park, and enjoy the lifetime sport of fishing. Hutsell Elementary teachers, in orange polo shirts, offer assistance to students. In addition to fishing, families are also encouraged to visit different stations around the park. There is a camping/ice cream making station where students learn the essentials of camping and learn how to make hand-made ice cream. This process also reinforces the scientific process of turning a liquid to a solid via friction. At the fish print station, students are allowed to make their own free t-shirts, based off of the art of Gyotaku, an ancient Japanese art form.
For those who aren’t comfortable casting a fishing pole with a hook, we have a station where plastic fish called “Backyard Bass” are used to practice catching using a rubber plug. Texas Parks and Wildlife provides their “Take Me Fishing” Aquatic Education trailer that is set up for families to view fresh water and saltwater fish species, water conservation, fishing safety, and tackle box assembly. If and when a student catches a fish, we have a fish tank used to hold the fish that are caught. Everyone can then view the catches of the day! Finally, we offer a nature exhibit station, with some snakes, lizards and turtles for our students to learn about.
Students can also be a Fishin’ Buddy and help others if they choose too. Also, there is a fun tournament to see which students can catch the longest, heaviest, and first fish of the day and the winning students will receive a special prize. We have had the honor of hosting many guests during Take Me Fishing including but not limited to: Mr. Alton Frailey, former Katy ISD superintendent, Former Mayors of Katy Don Elder and Fabol Hughes, Current Mayor of Katy Chuck Brawner, Katy ISD school board members, Texas Parks and Wildlife Staff, Boy Scout leaders, members from Fishing’s Future and we have even had employees from US Fish and Wildlife come to our event to support us.
Since the inception of “Take Me Fishing Hutsell” we have always encouraged the virtue of stewardship. At the end of each event we host, we ask students to gather up trash they see around Peckham Park and we collect all the trash and then remove it from the grounds. We also recycle used monofilament line. Did you know it takes over 600 years to decompose? We believe in leaving the park cleaner then when we found it and it’s our goal to pass that ideal on to the students at Hutsell. Formed in the 2016/2017 school year, the Green Hornets meet up three to four times a year at Peckham Park to learn about conservation and then take part in cleaning up Peckham Park. The Green Hornets is a group of students from Hutsell Elementary that desire to go above and beyond by assisting in taking care of Peckham Park.
Supporting the efforts of the TMFH program, Hutsell also has a 4th grade outdoor education field trip where 4th grade students earn their Texas Parks and Wildlife Basic Angler Certification through Physical Education class. During the field trip, students practice how to fish, collect bugs and identify the pollution levels of the water based on types of invertebrate found, learn about fish anatomy, and study the history of Dutch Ovens and how they were used. Students also learn about boater safety and partake in various other outdoor education stations such as Gyotaku, fire safety, and making ice cream. Hutsell’s fishing program successfully brings the classroom outdoors, using math and science in real-world scenarios, reinforcing state standards, and raising STARR scores. Hutsell immensely looks forward to “Take Me Fishing Hutsell” and the 4th grade outdoor education field trip every year.
“Take Me Fishing Hutsell” serves as a staple program at Hutsell Elementary. In fact, all teachers hired at Hutsell are encouraged to take an Angler Education Instructor course offered through Texas Parks and Wildlife in order to fully assist during TMFH. “Take Me Fishing Hutsell” is an essential program offered to our students and we find it to be a useful tool to increase parental and community involvement on our campus. If you would like to support or partner with Hutsell Elementary please contact Robert Brashear at 281-237-6001. Our 13th annual “Take Me Fishing Hutsell” event is on March 30th, 2019. Until then, FISH ON!!
Physical Education Teacher
Take Me Fishing Hutsell Coordinator