Tuesday, May 17, 2011

The "Fishing Teacher" Lands A Big One

 Here's a fun "Fish Story" for you. It begins at Red Bank Elementary with Sam Simons, teacher and avid angler. Creative educators will use unconventional tools to motivate students. In Simons case, he uses out of the (tackle) box methods to encourage scholastic achievement. Every year he rewards his four best students with a fishing trip. So this past Saturday, Simons and friend Craig Smith took some excited students out on the Tennessee River to see what was biting. Imagine the feeling of being out on a boat, seeing your bobber disappear and then hearing your reel sing as a huge fish takes off like a rocket. Two of the kids landed lunker blue cats. One weighed 40 pounds, another tipped the scales at 48 pounds!
The smiles on these students faces tell the story of a great day on the water. Imagine being in their shoes and catching a fish that probably weighs half as much as yourself. But the real surprise wasn't what the kids caught. It was what their teacher caught on another outing that same weekend. Mr. Simons dropped a line in the river with a live shad on the hook for bait. A few moments later they all had a story to tell.

"I hooked a good fish after awhile and handed it to Dad, then it made a jump," said Sam.  "I'm assuming, oh it's a nice sized smallmouth.  I didn't see the jump, only heard it. Then, it peels a fair amount of drag.  Dad gets tired after awhile and hands the rod to me.  Now, we are below the railroad bridge.  I am totally confused by this point, as it was big and agile, so I didn't think it was a drum or blue.  It would have been a world record smallmouth.  What is this?  Dad gets his energy back and I pass the rod.  We got the big surprise of the year, a sturgeon!  Holy cow, what a fight and I have never held one before, only got to pet them at the Aquarium.  It was really cool."

Simons photographed and released the lake sturgeon in a very healthy condition.  

The Aquarium has been working with several agencies such as Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency and World Wildlife Fund to restore these mighty fish to the Tennessee River. In fact, this catch and release helps illustrate the success of the Saving the Sturgeon program. Dr. Anna George, director of the Tennessee Aquarium Conservation Institute, believes this particular fish was not part of a recent release in downtown Chattanooga. "This fish was smaller than those we released earlier this month," said Dr. George. "It's probably one of the fish released previously near Knoxville."

Lake sturgeon have been reported by fishermen as far downstream as Kentucky Lake. Further establishing the success of the Saving the Sturgeon program, but also indicating favorable conditions of the Tennessee River. Lake sturgeon cannot be harvested and must be immediately released. Possession of a lake sturgeon is against the law. But TWRA hopes anyone hooking a sturgeon will document the catch and share that information. "Angler reports of any Lake sturgeon catches are critical for monitoring the continued success of this important restoration program," said Jason Henegar, River and Streams Coordinator for TWRA's Fisheries Management Division.

Please report all lake sturgeon catches to TWRA Fish Management at 615-781-6573 or e-mail Henegar at jason.henegar@tn.gov .

Like any angler who reports a lake sturgeon catch, Mr. Simons will receive a numbered Lake Sturgeon Certificate featuring a color reproduction of a lake sturgeon drawn by renowned wildlife artist Joseph R. Tomelleri. (We're guessing this will hang proudly in his classroom.)

Learn more about Red Bank Elementary's "Fishing Teacher" by reading this article by Richard Simms.

The Tennessee River is our source of drinking water. Hopefully people continue to help keep our waters clean for our use and all aquatic species and the terrestrial animals that depend on healthy habitat.

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