Aztec kindergartners get a fishing lesson

At an end-of-the-year field trip, Lydia Rippey Elementary School students learned about casting, fishing and the animals that live in and around rivers

Hannah Grover
Tiger Espinoza, vice president of Sportsmen for Fish and Wildlife's New Mexico chapter, teaches kindergartner Jacobi Cascio how to fish on Friday at Riverside Park in Aztec.

AZTEC — About 100 kindergarten students learned about aquatic life during a field trip today to Riverside Park.

This marked the second year Lydia Rippey Elementary School students have fished at the Aztec park.

At the end of each school year, kindergarten teacher Ione Randleman allows her students to choose a subject to study. For the last two years, the classes have opted to learn about fisheries and aquatic life.

"Word got out Ms. Randleman does fishing," she said.

This year, the school's other kindergarten classes joined Randleman's students on the field trip. Officials with the New Mexico Department of Game and Fish, the San Juan Fly Fishing Federation and the New Mexico chapter of Sportsmen for Fish and Wildlife offered the students educational activities related to fishing.

Six-year old Ricky Mahan fishes on Friday at Riverside Park in Aztec.

Students were divided into groups that rotated through various activities, including casting, fishing, walking along the Animas River and learning about animals that live in or near rivers. Students also had the chance to see specimens of fish and insects found in local rivers.

At the end of the day, each student received a rod, courtesy of the wildlife conservation group Sportsmen for Fish and Wildlife.

Between 200 and 300 rainbow trout were released into the fishing pond at Riverside Park on Thursday evening in preparation for the field trip, said Larry Garcia, a spokesman for the state Department of Game and Fish.

However, Garcia said he didn't expect too many fish to actually be caught today, largely because the sport takes a lot of patience.

"They're going to learn patience," he said of the kindergartners, "but it's going to come."

Today, Ricky Mahan, 6, waited for bait to be attached to his hook before he cast the line into the water.

"I almost caught a fish with a worm," he announced.

Garl McGraw helps his son, Abel Valencia, unhook a rainbow trout from his line on Friday at Riverside Park in Aztec.

On the other side of the pond, Abel Valencia, 6, caught a small trout. His father, Garl McGraw, helped take the fish off the hook and handed it to his son to hold.

Abel said he enjoys fishing because he likes to hold the fish and he enjoys the feeling when a fish bites the hook.

Many of the students' parents helped out during the outing.

"I had more parents show up for this field trip than any other one I've ever done," Randleman said.

One of those parents was Allison Florez, who helped her daughter, Amelia Florez, cast a line into the water.

"I try to spend as much time as I can with her," the mother said.

Hannah Grover covers Aztec and Bloomfield, as well as general news, for The Daily Times. She can be reached at 505-564-4652.

Zariah Wisenbaler, center, takes control of a fishing rod from Bill Randleman, a wildlife biology technician with the U.S. Forest Service, on Friday at Riverside Park in Aztec.