Matawa students get ice fishing education on Lake Superior
Ten students from four northern first nations took part in day on Black Bay
On Thursday Jan. 24, ten students from a number of northern First Nations took part in an ice fishing trip to Black Bay, on Lake Superior.
The students were taking part in one of the many activities that are offered as part of the Matawa outdoor education program.
On Black Bay, the students, two elders, two teachers and a small film crew were taken 7 km out on the ice by Bear Trak Outfitters on large sleighs pulled by snowmobiles.
Two heated shacks were waiting there with holes pre-drilled inside.
A brisk, northerly wind and –30 C windchill meant little fishing could be done outside.
Some fishing instruction was provided by CBC Thunder Bay's outdoor columnist Gord Ellis.
America Baxter, a Grade 11 student from Marten Falls, caught the first perch. It was a nice 28 cm fish. Baxter said the Matawa outdoor education program has allowed her to experience some things she might not have otherwise.
"I like that we go out to all these different places," said Baxter. "Like last year I went on a Sleeping Giant trip. We went canoeing, mountain biking. We did a lot of things. I went ice fishing last year around the Lakeshore Drive area with a couple of my old student workers. And now I'm going ice fishing here."
Baxter said an outdoor life is a big part of both her family history and her community. She said she really enjoyed the chance to fish on Black Bay, although it was very cold.
More than a dozen perch were caught by the Matawa students between two shacks over a couple of hours of fishing.
The largest was a more than 30 cm jumbo that was landed by Ayden Yelllowhead from Eabametoong First Nation. Many bites were missed.
Hot chili was on the lunch menu and that helped ward off the chill. The fish were cooked up for the students the following Friday with the help of the organization Roots to Harvest.
Joey Miller teaches outdoor education at the Matawa Education Centre and organized the ice fishing trip.
He said the students taking part in the program get outdoors almost every week. But he noted some trips — like ice fishing — require more time and organization.
"A trip like this today would be more of a bigger trip than maybe going snowshoeing around the property. Or doing some stuff in the city itself."
Miller said the students taking part in the ice fishing trip on Black Bay were from Eabametoong, Nibinamik, Marten Falls and Neskantaga First Nations.
He said providing a chance to experience nature and harvest wild food is a key part of the all around education offered to the students at Matawa.
"A lot of the students at our school don't always want to be sitting in their desks doing book work," said Miller. "But they know they can learn a lot by coming out on the land and it just gives them an opportunity to have fun while at school."