Fishing Club

PBJHS math teacher starts Fishing Club
Posted on 10/16/2018
Brett Russell and Damion Smith

A first year Poplar Bluff Junior High faculty member has gone above and beyond his job duties of teaching math by encouraging students to take up the pastime of angling.

Brett Russell chaperoned 14 students on the first of a series of fishing expeditions on Thursday, Oct. 11, in a pond owned by New Covenant Fellowship Church off Kanell Boulevard. 

Sponsored by the Missouri Department of Conservation, the PBJHS Fishing Club plans to meet on a weekly basis after school as weather permits.

“There’s been a decline in license sales nationally,” said Salvador Mondragon, MDC fisheries management biologist based in Cape Girardeau. “We just want to get them outdoors and exposed to nature.” 

Mondragon, along with angler education assistant Caleb Jansen, will be facilitating four of the lessons covering: equipment, casting and proper fish handling; how to tie a knot and bait a hook; five common Missouri fish – their anatomy, habitat and life cycle; and fishing with lures/fishing regulations.

The MDC offers the two-hour classes for free through the Discover Nature – Fishing program. A renewable $500 education grant will be made available to the club to finance a classroom set of rods, bait purchased locally and travel expenses for fishing trips planned, according to the facilitators.

The club initially started at the end of last school year when Russell, then a student teacher for Chris Wheat, made a pact with outgoing eighth grader Tysen Huddleston. Russell promised to take the students fishing if Tysen improved his grades.

“He worked super hard and I gave my word to the kiddo,” recalled Russell, noting: “I’m passionate about fishing.” 

Several years ago, Russell became temporarily disabled due to what was later diagnosed as a rare form of arthritis, he explained. When his mobility eventually returned with treatment, he developed a new appreciation for maintaining an active lifestyle, he continued. 

Before suffering from the condition, Russell admitted that all he wanted to do with his time was play video games. He referred to his misfortunate as “The Monkey’s Paw,” a famous short story about interfering with fate.

“We live in such a beautiful place; you can drive 5 or 10 minutes in any direction and get in some quality fishing,” Russell commented. “I just want them to raise their eyes from their phones, get interested in the environment and enjoy the days they live in the world, whether through fishing or whatever.” 

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Cutline: Pictured with teacher Brett Russell (left), eighth grader Damion Smith scores the first catch of the day, a bluegill.

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