10/30/2018 1:16:00 PM Local guides collaborate to re-introduce the joys of fishing Hooked on Fishing, Not on Drugs
By Ally Garbe of the Press-Citizen
Being raised and growing up in rural communities is a much different experience than larger towns and metropolitan areas. One of the ways my upbringing varied from my Southbound friends was an array of rugged activity options due to some incredible community members and parents and a ridiculously accessible outlet: the great outdoors. We took annual school trips walking to our School Forest, summertime archery and rifle practice, swimming lessons in area lakes. My brother even got to take a trip to Canada with his classmates to explore an old mining cave and other interesting landscapes.
One fall morning, a handful of teachers loaded their middle school students on a bus to take them to the small town of Federal Dam. They called the day, Hooked On Fishing, Not On Drugs (HOFNOD.)
This experience stood out for a couple of my brother's classmates, Wil Neururer and Kevin Murphy.
After graduating from Northland High School, the pair stayed in the area and remain friends. In late 2017, Neururer learned HOFNOD had been discontinued for a number of years. He stated, "I was outraged!"
Neururer, a manager at the One Stop and avid outdoorsman, began working with his old friend, Murphy, a teacher at Northland Community Schools, to bring back one of their favorite experiences as pre-teens. The endeavor took an immense amount of volunteered time, donated by Murphy, Neururer and local fishing guide and angling educator at Deep Portage Dan Ryan, who periodically shares work and partners with Neururer. Once Murphy had received approval to re-initiate HOFNOD, the crew began preparing for field trip day.
"With my professional connections, we were able to pull together all the supplies we needed at no cost to the kids," Neururer said. The One Stop, Remer Lions, Cannon Downriggers, Big Rock Sports, Northland Tackle, Pure Fishing Tackle, Berkley and Northland Community School helped make the day such a success. The One Stop hosts an annual tournament where profits are donated to local fishing education programs; this spring's profit was donated to HOFNOD.
Finally, after nearly a year of planning and preparing, Murphy's 25 6th grade students loaded up and made their excursion to Leech Lake Recreational Area in Federal Dam to begin fishing at 9:30 a.m.
"The first thing we wanted to do was make sure the kids knew to be responsible and respectful... and of course, to have fun," Ryan commented. "We had rods ready for everyone and 14 awesome volunteers that cared and wanted to help kids with casting, baiting, and anything else they needed." With such an immense amount of support, each group that spread around the fishing area only consisted of about three kids to one adult.
Neururer couldn't contain his excitement. "It started out slow, but all of a sudden all heck broke loose! Kids were catching fish left and right!" He and Ryan agreed that the fun and excitement everyone experienced made a difference for the kids, just like it had for he and Murphy so many years ago. Their hope is to teach youth how to respect and enjoy the outdoors and show the how accessible our area is.
After fishing for about two hours, the group came back together at the pavilion for a fish fry with supplies and fillets donated by Samson's in Grand Rapids. With some time left before needing to return to school, volunteers cleaned up lunch and played games with kids. "After basketball and lunch there was still some time, so I asked the kids if they wanted to go fishing again, and they all just lost it," Neururer said. Even through rain, they stayed and fished until the very last minute! "I couldn't keep up helping with those anglers!"
Based on smiles worn, laughs had and fish caught, the return of Hooked On Fishing, Not On Drugs was well worth time and effort put forth. At the end of the day, Murphy, Neururer and Ryan presented each student with their own tackle box to go along with their new rods. The group wanted to make sure students had the equipment they needed to continue this fun activity on their own and with friends and family.
They hope to have three annual fishing events with students from Northland Community Schools. One on the ice, one on the rocks and one in the water. Neururer asks that area sportsmen keep them in mind and consider volunteering their time and boat to bring kids fishing on the water, as well as assistance at other HOFNOD events. Interested parties may visit Neururer at the One Stop for more information.
"I love spending time doing things like this," Neururer stated. "I want others to have the same incredible experiences I had as a kid. They shaped who I am now. So, why not go crush 'em together?"