Across northwest Montana, "Hooked on Fishing, Not Drugs" classes are enjoying the lifelong family activity of fishing and learning about the outdoors. Students have gone ice fishing at various lakes to supplement what they are learning in the classroom. More than 30 classes are now participating in this award-winning, national program.
One of the smallest Hooked on Fishing classes is located at Salmon Prairie School, near Condon. At Salmon Prairie, about a dozen students experience the quality of an old-time relationship among themselves and their teacher, Jill Maus. Parents take turns supplying home-made hot lunches. And the area around the school offers terrific opportunities for learningthe Swan River flows about 100 yards from the school's front porch.
Salmon Prairie students have participated in a number of classroom activities, including studying fish specimens and doing projects on particular fish species. Students are enthusiastic and pose challening questions about biology. Recently, the students raised more than six questions which stumped a fisheries biologist.
In early February, the students, teacher Jill Maus, a FWP representative and six parents went on an ice fishing outing at Van Lake, located several miles from the school. Students helped build fishing "tip-tups" from sticks found on site, and one rainbow trout was caught using these primitive fishing sets. Students also caught several other rainbow trout using conventional fishing rods. Parents supplied an excellent hot dog and marshmallow roast. Best of all, students experienced a family activity and learned about the biology of an area located right in their back yard.
"It was a great time," says Maus. "It got to where every student was staring down their hole and trying to catch fish swimming by. I think we started something; many of the students are going back with their families this weekend!"
The Hooked on Fishing program is gaining momentum in Montana. Evergreen teacher Judy Sander received a national science award last month for her work in getting the program started.