HomeMt Laurel NewsMr. Gary kissed a worm

Mr. Gary kissed a worm

More than a decade after he took his first group of 12 students out fishing, the Mt. Laurel Schools bus driver known as Mr. Gary reeled in a much larger portion of the school community at his annual fishing derby on April 11.

The day was mostly sunny and breezy, but temperatures were on the chilly side, and the fish in the pond at Laurel Acres Park on South Church Street in the township swam for deeper water, said Mr. Gary.

- Advertisement -

“It turns the fish off,” he said.

Even so, some fish took the bait.

Hartford School student Devon Kowan caught a big fish. The trout weighed in at two pounds, 14 ounces.

Unfortunately, upon release, the fish was too shocked to re-enter the pond and succumbed at the scene.

That particular fish, Mr. Gary said, was one of the trout stocked a couple of hours earlier by the New Jersey Division of Fish and Wildlife.

When the truck arrived shortly after the beginning of the derby, some of the children assembled into a line and each took one turn placing a scoop of about half a dozen wiggling trout into the pond.

Armed with their hooks and bait, the schoolchildren set to work to snatch fish.

Resident Lauren Greenberg’s sons, Hillside School kindergartener Andrew and third-grader Aidan, were newcomers to the derby this year.

“Let’s see how patient they are,” she said. “See if they can catch something.”

Andrew helped to pile the trout into the pond, Aidan learned how to cast and Greenberg laughed that she found out that she is terrible at putting worms on a hook.

A few feet down the shoreline, Lawrence Harmon helped his grandson, second-grader Avery Lloyd, cast his line.

“It ran away with the worm,” Avery exclaimed.

“I think you held it too long,” Harmon responded.

Harmon said he has been out deep-sea fishing twice before.

Once, he reeled in nine fish.

The other time, no bites.

Mr. Gary, the fisherman himself and bus driver of 21 years, bobbed all over the park, eager to help each student and parents, most of whom he knew by name.

He goes bass fishing between 60 and 70 times a year with a couple of his friends.

The fishermen seek lakes in Florida, New Hampshire and Canada, to name a few.

“I’m strictly freshwater fishing,” he said, and he mostly throws his catch back.

He works part-time at Mamco Property Management when he’s not instilling fish knowledge on his school bus.

“It pays for my fishing trips, you might say,” he said.

Mr. Gary also finds himself eating tuna for lunch at his Kings Grant residence in Evesham Township, as people give him plenty of fish.

“I eat that a lot,” he said.

When a student nabbed a 10-ounce trout, Mr. Gary was all smiles.

Through his derby each year, he hopes the kids will learn respect and love for nature, he said.

According to Alana Lum, Mr. Gary’s transportation supervisor, about 100 children of all ages come out for the derby, and “the more, the merrier.”

“Unfortunately, they don’t have the patience at this age,” she said. “They expect to throw it out and get that fish.”

The children have found sunnies, crappies, bass and bullhead catfish, she said, and they always attempt to throw them back in.

Woodrow Wilson High School in Camden teacher Steve Hershkowitz provided his own plastic teacha worms, now available in seven countries, Hershkowitz added, in addition to the nightcrawlers and minnows bait.

As the students trickled out after learning valuable fishing techniques and life lessons, they received a prize and others received a trophy in the end, given by Mr. Gary himself.

At the end of the derby, the kids helped clean along the shoreline.

“It’s a way for us to give back,” Mr. Gary said.

Lum said that when Mr. Gary catches a fish, he kisses it before throwing it back into the pond.

“I kissed a worm for them today,” he said.

That was a first for him.

The kids asked, and he obliged with a nightcrawler.

After all, lip smacking with a fish is appropriate, as Mr. Gary sees fishing as a top love in his life.

Ever since the humble beginnings 15 years ago, he said, when he taught his kindergarteners on the bus about fishing and arranged a trip with their parents, “it just became a love affair,” he said.

There were plenty of first-time fishers on hand for the day this year, according to Lum.

“It gets the kids into something they’ll do for a lifetime,” said Lum of the day on the shoreline.


Stay Connected

- Advertisment -

Current Issue