By Julie Huss
---- — High school anglers may soon have a varsity sport to call their own.
The New Hampshire Interscholastic Athletic Association will conduct its first ever NHIAA-sanctioned bass fishing competition on May 9 at Lee’s Mills in Moultonborough on Lake Winnipesaukee.
This year’s event is a trial tournament as high schools around the state and the NHIAA prepare to make bass fishing official during the 2013-2014 school year.
That’s good news to student anglers at Pinkerton Academy, who are already practicing their casting and other fishing techniques at Beaver Lake to get ready for the tournament.
Mark Cahill, a chef and lead culinary instructor at Pinkerton, is an avid fisherman. He serves as the group’s advisor.
“I love fishing, I like to bring my sons, my dad loved fishing, his dad,” he said. “I grew up on a boat.”
Bass is a good choice for competition fishing, he said.
“They are a fish of choice in freshwater and can run from 1 pound up to 16,” Cahill said.
About 45 high schools have already expressed in interest in the sport. That includes the initial 50 that showed up for a preliminary meeting at Pinkerton. About 20 are still on board to take it to the next level to possibly form a co-ed team.
“The response has been overwhelming,” Cahill said.
This area is ripe for fishing, Cahill said, and many of the interested students have spent a lot of time on the water with a pole and reel.
Other types of sports might not be suited to every student, he said, and fishing is an option for some who need a different type of competitive outlet.
“Their enthusiasm is off the charts,” Cahill said.
Pinkerton is not alone. Londonderry High School is also considering getting on board with bass fishing as an official high school sport. At a School Board meeting April 16, Superintendent Nathan Greenberg said there is interest in town.
“We have had inquiries from parents and students interested in participating in the tournament,” he said.
That interest could send two teams of two students to participate in Moultonborough. Parents have volunteered the use of their boats.
Greenberg said if there is enough interest, a high school club could start next year for students who love to fish and want to compete. That club could possibly go the same route as others in the past and a warrant article asking voters to make the club an official varsity sport could follow.
Individual medals will be given during the May 9 tournament to those catching the largest number of bass, the largest large-mouth and largest small-mouth bass caught.
Teams will have mentors guiding them through the process of learning about New Hampshire’s water resources and the responsibility that goes along with being a good angler.
“We are excited that scholastic sports and the angling community are coming together to create this opportunity for students to set the foundation for a lifelong outdoor activity,” New Hampshire Fish and Game’s Karina Walsh said.
Cahill said it’s still early in the game, but Pinkerton’s interest is there.
“It’s a trial thing; we’ll see how it goes,” Cahill said. “But we are trying to make it an organized sport. I think it has a good start.”