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Wiltz: Youth fishing excursions have life benefits

Betsy and I own a second home in Mount Horeb, Wisconsin. It not only provides us with more time for our children and grandchildren, it has given me ready access to the University of Wisconsin Hospital in Madison to deal with health issues.

Over the years, I have stumbled over good stories right under my nose, and today is no exception. The Mount Horeb High School Future Farmers of America (FFA) has an on-going event that could hopefully impact most of our South Dakota high schools.

For the past 51 years, the Mount Horeb FFA has made an annual fishing trip to Ontario, Canada. The trip was initiated by FFA adviser George Johnson, and has been carried on by current FFA adviser/teacher Pam Allen. This year's 2018 version of the trip included 13 boats, 19 boys and nine girls in FFA, and 17 chaperones for a total of 45 participants.

They enter Canada at Grand Portage, Minnesota and continue the 770-mile one-way trip to Jutten Lake in the Savant area. The Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources has asked them to use "conservation licenses" that they apply for and receive over the internet prior to departure. The Ontario MNR has also granted them special boat launch privileges on Jutten.

They camp on a somewhat open island to keep mosquitos in check. Over the years, the chapter has come to own some of their own equipment, including tents, shelters, tables, and a pancake griddle donated to them by the local Rotary club.

Individual FFA members are assigned specific duties that include preparing at least one breakfast and one supper. For meals, breakfasts feature pancakes and eggs and bacon, and supper is always walleye served with potatoes, onions, and vegetables. Lunch is a brown bag affair. One rule is all but carved in stone: "When in a boat, wear your life jacket!"

These FFA'ers finance at least part of the trip expense with their holiday fruit sales program. I'm quite certain that many of our South Dakota FFA chapters are familiar with fruit sales and orders.

With regard to the fishing, they brought 100 dozen minnows with them and 5 pounds of leeches, which weren't all that necessary, as a jig with a plastic body caught more than enough walleyes. The biggest walleye of the trip measured 26-1/2 inches. Many 24-inch walleyes were caught and the biggest northern pike went 40 inches. Most of the anglers experienced having a walleye on the end of their line attacked by a glutinous northern pike. Tom, my son-in-law, was a chaperone. They kept a fish count in his boat and tallied 436 fish boated.

The FFA expedition left Mount Horeb on Sunday, June 17 and arrived back on June 24. A chaperone mechanic brought up the rear of the train to ensure no outfit was left stranded. This year's only mechanical failure en route required the replacement of a boat trailer wheel bearing.

What do I like best about today's column? Taking kids fishing and getting them started! I plan to talk to our Wagner FFA adviser about this trip, and I'll offer all the assistance I can give. In thinking about this, taking our own I-29 north to Winnipeg and then on north might be our best option. Devils Lake, North Dakota might be another consideration. So would canoes in Quetico Provincial Park. Give me your input!

Last week, I talked about a lethal drop-shot rig. Here's what it takes. All of the following came from Cabela's: VMC SpinDrift hooks, and Berkley PowerBait 2-inch or 5-centimeter emerald shiner minnows along with Cabela's 1.75" Silver Glitter Pearl minnows. The effectiveness will shock you!

Deer applications are out. The first deadlines are July 20 for Black Hills and West River. See you next week.