A group of Derby High School students and English teacher Matt VanBoening have brought back its school fishing club.
An avid angler himself, it’s a new venture for VanBoening along with the 15-30 students who have expressed interest in the club or participated in one of its earlier practices.
After spending the day together at Udall City Lake on Saturday, Sept. 28, VanBoening and two students will be traveling to LaCygne Reservoir for their first tournament.
Only two fishermen are allowed on a boat during a tournament, restricting participation in this first tournament. However, the longtime Derby teacher said the door remains open in the future for more tournament participants.
I’ve [personally] never tournament-fished before and I’m excited to get these kids into outdoor activities,” VanBoening said. “I also want to make sure some of the beginner and intermediate kids get exposed to it and have opportunities. I want to do that on a consistent basis as well.”
Fishing is not a KSHSAA-sanctioned sport, but the club coach said the number of schools participating is growing. One of the last recorded numbers was 150 high school teams in 2013.
However, a July 2018 article by the Wichita Eagle mentioned that Bluestem High School be-came the first Kansas school to have a school-sponsored boat.
The Derby club coach said he also knows of teams in El Dorado and Haven, which include participants from Newton and McPherson.
VanBoening said the club at Derby High School is open to all students, including those with disabilities.
Fundraising has become one of the club’s main priorities.
VanBoening said his students have begun fundraising to cover costs, including t-shirts/uniforms, registrations, licenses and other fees, etc. Part of that initial foundation will also include needs that he said the community can participate in alongside the group.
“Right now we’re looking for parents, family, friends and community members who would be willing to drive a boat,” he said. “It’s our first approach. We’re finding out there are some expenses related to the tournament that we need to spend funds on.”
VanBoening said they had 14 students together in Udall this past Saturday. He said the majority of them brought their own gear, but he offered help as needed with beginning-level fishermen.
“I’d encourage anybody who’s interested to come and try it,” he said. “It doesn’t matter if they’re a flat-out beginner or more experienced. We want to create an avenue for both [experienced and beginning] fishermen to pursue it.”
Part of the teaching that excites VanBoening includes the biological details of any specific body of water and understanding the elements of a given day.
“We got into some of that on Saturday because we were out when the weather front was moving through,” he said. “I was talking to them about pressure on the water and different locations to fish based on the [details] of the body of water. It’s all a part of passing on the knowledge of fishing.”
While it is not a NCAA-sanctioned sport either, universities including Wichita State, Kansas State and Pittsburg State have begun offering scholarships for fishing teams. VanBoening said over $1 million worth of scholarships have been given over the past six years.
“It can help them follow their endeavors and pursue their interests at the next level,” he said. “Part of that is learning who to talk to and opening those lines of communication.”