NEWTON TWP. — Students in fifth through eighth grades at Abington Heights Middle School have many activities to choose from in the after-school programs. They can play badminton, capture-the-flag, tennis, Wiffle Ball and floor hockey. They can learn about gardening, finger crocheting or chess. They can sing in the Glee club, be part of a writer’s group or work on the tech crew for theater productions. They can receive help with homework.
And they can go fishing.
The fishing club, now in its second year, is taught by Marty Memolo, fifth and sixth grade reading specialist. Ten middle school students meet on Wednesdays after school for six weeks during fall and spring sessions. The club will grow to include more students if more fishing equipment is obtained.
“We do not keep any of the fish we catch,” Memolo said. “We do put the fish in a bucket to watch them for a while or take a picture, but then let them go. The pond is not fed by any streams, and if we kept the fish, soon we would have no fish.
“While at the pond, we pick up trash and carefully collect any loose fishing line. This also helps protect the geese and ducks that make their home at the pond.”
The students fish for bluegill, panfish, pickerel, catfish, largemouth bass and a huge goldfish.
“I love fishing,” said Mario Peirsimoni, who caught two blue gills on a recent afternoon. “I like catching fish.”
The students bait their own hooks but they do not take the fish off the hooks.
“I came to Abington Heights five years ago and was astonished by all the natural resources available on the beautiful rural campus,” said Memolo. “One major resource we have that few schools have is the pond. Our vice principal, Patrick McGarry is a fly fisherman and was very supportive when I suggested that we establish fishing as an after-school activity. The presence of the pond gives the children a unique opportunity to explore nature and learn a skill.”
“I like the satisfaction of catching a fish,” said Guinevere Dadey, fifth-grade, who also caught a bluegill. “I like being outside with my friends.”
“I like to fish and I like all animals,” said Olivia Gerrity, fifth grade. “People do not like to help animals but I like to help them.”
“I used to fish when I was little,” said Tina Santaniello, school nurse, who co-teaches the club.
“I monitor the kids around the water and keep them safe,” she said.
When it’s raining and the club can’t go outside to fish, the students stay inside to learn how to tie lures or make traps. They learn about the fishing regulations and identification of Pennsylvania fish.
“It is fun being outside,” said Ethan Horutz, sixth grade.
“The fish are very gentle,” said Sylvan Wu, sixth grade. “I like to pick them up but they are slippery.”
Other students fishing that day were fifth graders Ben Rodriguez, Colton Kipple, Liv Grunza Gabby Sorensen and Kaitlyn Pagnani and eighth grader Jerry Stiastny.
“It is wonderful to be outside in the fresh air in step with nature” said Memolo. “We emphasize the enjoyment of fishing rather than focusing on how many fish or the kind of fish we catch.”
Want to help?
The middle school is looking for donations for bait and spin casting rods, fly fishing rods, reels, nets, lures, buckets, tackle boxes, fishing line, pliers, hooks, vices for fly tying, tread or any other equipment not being used. The club is also looking for 12 fly tying vices and enough read to offer a winter session on fly tying.
Donations may be dropped off at the school, 1555 Newton Ransom Blvd., Monday to Friday from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. Or for more information, call the school at 570-586-1281.