By Daryl Law | Correspondent
On July 30, a hot, balmy Friday afternoon, a charter-bus-load of students from Gates County had the time of their young lives while bottom fishing at Jennette’s Pier in Nags Head.
“I think it’s a great experience,” Principal Shawn Wilson said. “We’re from a rural area, and a lot of them haven’t seen the beach before; some have never fished.”
The Gatesville Elementary students rotated through two stations including the pier’s basic fishing class on the pier and a squid dissection program upstairs in the Oceanview Hall.
“They’re catching fish left and right!” Wilson said as she watched. “The kids are very excited. It’s hot, but they’re still patient.” No matter the heat and humidity, Wilson was happy being in the middle of the big bite with the youngsters. She’s excited about the initial visit as well as future field trips to Jennette’s.
Funding from the N.C. Aquarium Society and its Aquarium Scholars program makes it possible for Title 1 school groups, such as Gatesville Elementary, to visit these state-owned and operated facilities and experience their educational programming.
The pier buzzed with activity as the students hooked fish: blues, spots, croaker, sea bass and even a decent-sized sheepshead, distinguished by its black-and-white vertical stripes. Retired veterans Rick Probst and Ken Partlow were helping along with pier instructor Meredith Fish and junior camp counselor Tenzin Robisch, a rising senior at First Flight High School.
Justus Beaman, 7, caught two black sea bass, and then Carter Armstead, 7, hooked the sheepshead. The rising second graders fought each fish hard and were both happy to get their photos taken.
Maxine Austin, 8, a rising third grader said fishing is “okay” as long as they don’t get too close to her.
“It felt … pretty good,” she said. “I like to catch fish, see what type they are, and I like to reel them in. … I don’t like it when it flops around and gets water on me.
In general, the field trip to the Outer Banks has been a good one.
Applications for the 2021-2022 Aquarium Scholars may be submitted through Sept. 8. For more information or to contribute, visit www.ncaquariums.com/aquarium-scholars.