NRHS Ice Fishing Club completes first season
With spring having sprung and the weather looking to take its final upturn toward higher temperatures, the New Richmond High School Ice Fishing Club’s inaugural season is coming to a close.
Ice Fishing Club coach and high school science teacher Jeff Albarado believes that the club’s first season was a big success and that more kids will join next season.
“In the first few competitions we took part in it it was a bit of a learning curve, but eventually we figured things out a little more toward the end of the season,” Albarado said. “Ryan Jansen took second place in the same event two times and the team placed second in the heaviest limit of pan fish division out of 11 teams at the Unity invitational. We had a pretty good season as a whole and the kids had a good time.”
The newly formed school club, which was approved by the New Richmond Board of Education at its Feb. 17 School Board meeting, competed in five contests this winter. With high school ice fishing teams popping up all around the state, ice fishing tournaments are beginning to add high school divisions to accommodate them. However, Albarado would prefer if his team could compete in high school only events.
“A lot of tournaments are just adding high school divisions to their bigger events, but those aren’t quite as appropriate for the high schoolers,” Albarado said. “Of the five competitions we took part in this year, three of them were high school only tournaments. Those are just a lot better for the kids since they are there with kids their own age. Most of the tournaments we went to were an hour or less away and that was nice.”
A fishing team consists of five fishers per team, which means a school can bring more than one team to a competition. The New Richmond team had around 13 regular fishers all season, so they were able to make up three separate teams. The five competitions New Richmond took part in throughout western Wisconsin included Luck, Chetek, Prairie Farm, Webster and Unity.
“Not everyone is on the same team when it comes to competitions,” Albarado said. “Schools with a larger number of students can divide into more teams. Prairie Farm had a total of six teams because they had so many students taking part. We had 13 members most of the year, so I let them divide up and fish with whoever they wanted.”
According to Albarado, each contest is a little different and offers a variety of events for the students to take part in. Some contests have divisions that look at the length and weight of a fish caught by a student, while others look for the largest game fish or the highest number of panfish. Information on the different high school competitions can be found on the Wisconsin High School Ice Fishing website, studentfishing. com.
“When the season started, the state website had just 37 teams on it, but now there are 51 teams, so you can see that interest in the sport is starting to pick up,” Albarado said. “If things fall into place, we are hoping to sponsor our own contest next year. There is not a ton of preparations that need to be made to hold an event, so I think we should be able to handle it pretty well.”
The process Albarado had to go through in order to get the Ice Fishing Club approved included a survey of the school to see if there would be enough interest to sustain a club. After that step was completed, Albarado took the club to a competition or two in order to give the whole process a test to see how many people would show up and keep coming to the competitions. Albarado also used the test run to determine whether he would like coaching the team.
“We had some really good interest that was very positive so we just went with it and kept the club going,” Albarado said. “We are a pretty young group, so I think we will have some longevity and be able to keep the club together. We also had to get permission to compete since we weren’t an official club at the beginning of the season.”
From what Albarado is hearing from the middle school, there is a number of eighth-graders who are showing interest in the Ice Fishing Club who want to join next year.
“We’ve got a lot of active freshman and sophomores in the club this year, so they will hopefully be here for a while,” Albarado said. “But we do not have a lot of young ladies in the group though. If we can break that ice I think we can add another five to 10 members.”
Albarado plans to follow the same schedule next season that he did this year when he took the students to the Ice Fishing Show in the Twin Cities in December to get the club ready and excited for the season, which begins in January.
“There are no competitions in December since a lot of people are still leery of the ice being safe enough to fish on at that point,” Albarado said. “There are four or five competitions locally that I want us to take part in and we might also try to go to the state tournament, which is open to anyone who wants to go, but then you are adding a lot more costs to the club.”
When all is said and done, Albarado hopes that the Ice Fishing Club will be more than just an activity the students in the club do in high school just for the fun of it.
“Our mission statement is to give the kids an opportunity to take part in a positive outdoor activity that keeps them active,” Albarado said. “We also want ice fishing to become a lifetime activity for these kids and something they can have a passion for after high school and when they get older.”