HENDERSON HARBOR — An aquatic tradition of about 25 years made its annual return Monday, as dozens of students who just completed fourth and fifth grades at Belleville Henderson Central School, Belleville, took to the waters of the harbor and Lake Ontario to go fishing.
The event was made possible through the volunteering of several charter boat operators who again offered their boats despite losing several hundred dollars each in revenue for the day.
Mitchell L. Franz, who has organized the event since 1989, said it was a way for boaters to give back to the community.
“A lot of kids don’t have a chance to get out on the water,” Mr. Franz said. “This just keeps the interest for later on in life.”
The event has been running since the early 1980s, though a consensus could not be reached by organizers Monday about when it first took place.
Though the event was nearly called off because of heavy rain early Monday, things began to clear up as the approximately 35 students moved onto the water. Visibility during the morning stretched from Galloo Island to the Nine Mile Point nuclear station in Oswego.
On the boat of J. Scott Grandjean, Gary W. Richmond helped his 10-year-old daughter, Brynn T.P., hold up her fishing pole as she reeled in a steelhead. As the fish was pulled closer to the boat, Mr. Grandjean netted the fish for the first catch of the day.
“I can’t believe mine was just jumping in the air,” Brynn said. “It was like, whoa.”
Though a lake trout broke away from 11-year-old Belleville native Alexis R. Moyer, she ended the day catching three fish. The other two children on the boat, cousins Eden F. Vaughn, 9, and Mia C. Hogan, 10, helped each other to pull in several fish throughout the morning. Overall, the four girls reeled in about 15 fish and an eel.
Between fishing stops, the four tried balancing games as the boat hopped across the choppy waters. Noticing the game behind him, Mr. Grandjean tilted his boat left to right as they returned to his boat launch.
After their boat rides, children returned to the group’s meeting point at Henchen Marina. The students’ hauls were presented on the dock before being cleaned and prepared for a potluck shore dinner across the street at Westview Lodge.
As a sign of the conditions during the day, Mr. Franz said, Monday’s event was the first time the post-trip meal was prepared indoors.
Superintendent Rick T. Moore said the fishing event was a point of pride for his school district.
“We brag about this with everyone,” he said. Noting that many children don’t have opportunities to get out on the water, Mr. Moore said the district encouraged students to fish by applying for grant funding to provide supplies.
The students’ excitement and enthusiasm also led to talk among the younger participants of going back out the following year. Mr. Richmond said he could see himself going out again with his two younger children, ages 7 and 9 months.
“I got a few more of these trips on the way,” Mr. Richmond said.