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Scouts Get Hooked

Two Scouts in one troop land state youth fishing records.

By Dyanne Fry Cortez

Give them hooks and lines, and the Boy Scouts of Troop 728 are a force to be reckoned with.

Two Scouts in the Richardson-based troop hold state youth records for fishing in private water. Both caught their trophies at their area council’s 2004 winter camp, where the troop won the fishing tournament for the fifth consecutive year.

“Our troop loves to fish,” says Scoutmaster Greg Bobzien. The boys plan at least six outings per year that include opportunities to wet a line. Favorite spots include Joe Pool and Purtis Creek lakes, along with Scout camps at Duncanville and Possum Kingdom Reservoir. Most of the troop’s 35 members have earned merit badges for fishing, fish and wildlife management and for environmental science. Several also have the new fly-fishing badge, created in 2002. “We have a few boys that have taken up fly-fishing and prefer that over other kinds,” Bobzien says.

They also have a resident instructor who loves to teach, Mark Carpenter, Dallas Area Chief for the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department’s Angler Education Program.

Carpenter has been in Scouting since he was a kid growing up in Dallas. He helped organize Troop 728 in the 1990s, and served as Scoutmaster from 1997 to 2004. He became an Angler Ed volunteer in 2000, after the troop toured the new hatchery at Texas Freshwater Fisheries Center in Athens. He uses both TPWD and Boy Scout resources to get youngsters hooked on fishing.

“If you look at the requirements for the Junior and Master Angler Education awards and the requirements for the fishing merit badge, they’re pretty much the same,” says Carpenter. Both programs cover types of tackle, species recognition, casting techniques, safety, ethics and the importance of following local regulations. There’s one major difference: to earn the merit badge, a Scout must actually catch two fish. One is to be released alive; the other cleaned and cooked.

Troop outings give the boys a chance to put theory into practice. They can reel them in by the dozens at winter camp, held at Camp Cherokee south of Athens.

Carpenter usually serves as a merit badge counselor at this week-long retreat, which draws more than 1,000 Scouts. Assisted by members of the Order of the Arrow, Mikanakawa Lodge, he leads three days of classroom instruction, followed by a tournament at two on-site lakes. “I use the Angler Education program, then use the tournament as an incentive for the boys to finish their merit badge,” he says.

Carpenter always has applications on hand for Scouts who catch record fish. Since TPWD launched its Junior Angler Recognition Awards in 2003, a number of records have come from Camp Cherokee.

“I like to fish, and I like to see kids catch fish and the excitement they get out of it,” he says. In six years as an Angler Education volunteer, he has trained nearly 500 youngsters — Boy Scouts, Cub Scouts, Girl Scouts, Brownies, Y Guides and at least one church group.

For information on TPWD’s Angler Education Program and how to become a volunteer, see Angler Education on the TPWD web site.

For information on fish records and awards, visit the Angler Recognition Program.

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