Fishing club catching on at Woodland

Woodland Regional High School junior Dylan Napoleone, pictured with his personal-best bass in June, spearheaded an effort to start the Woodland Fishing Club at the high school. -CONTRIBUTED

BEACON FALLS — Many high schoolers feel like they’re small fish in big ponds. But Woodland High junior Dylan Napoleone wants to catch the big fish in any sized ponds.

Napoleone and a group of fishing enthusiasts at the high school recently started the Woodland Fishing Club, a district-sanctioned club that continues the outdoorsy momentum begun a few years ago by the Woodland Timber Team.

“I had a real ambition to start this club,” said Napoleone, who was a sophomore when he successfully petitioned district administration to give his club the OK. “I realized that my school really did have enough interest and passion for the sport of fishing, which was a huge advantage.”

Two dozen students came to the club’s first meeting with advisor Bill Carangelo as the group began to lay out its goals. They had one group fishing outing this fall, but most of the club’s time was spent laying the groundwork.

“I have big plans for the club for 2019,” Napoleone said.

Napoleone said there are about 20 high schools in Connecticut with fishing clubs, and the Woodland Fishing Club will compete against those squads for a berth in the High School Bassmaster Championship at Kentucky Lake, which is located along the Kentucky-Tennessee border.

About a half-dozen Woodland anglers will participate in Connecticut Bass Nation high school tournaments, during which tournament-designated captains take a pair of anglers out on the water for the day.

For the most ambitious fishermen, the tournament structure mirrors the setup that exists at many colleges and universities.

“Fishing is becoming much more widespread as there are a lot of colleges that have teams and recruit just like any other sport,” Napoleone said.

One of the challenges that the club faces is funding, as new clubs in Region 16 don’t receive direct funding. The group’s first fundraiser netted more than $800, and the club has received other donations from a number of sources. Napoleone said he’s been able to secure partial or full sponsorships from about 20 companies, ranging from apparel shops to equipment outfitters.

Napoleone also contacted a shoreline bait company and set up a training session about how anglers can make their own baits. It’s all part of his overall mission to help fellow students learn more about fishing.

“(One goal is) introducing newer anglers without any experience to the sport of fishing,” Napoleone said. “It really is one of the most upcoming sports in today’s day and age, especially in southern states like Kentucky, Alabama and Tennessee.”

When the spring rolls around, the Woodland Fishing Club plans on utilizing a pair of ponds located within a stone’s throw of the school — Carrington Pond at Matthies Park and Toby’s Pond. Napoleone hopes the club’s relationship with those two bodies of water will become deeper than casting a line.

“I plan to get everyone familiar with the two fishing-wise,” Napoleone said. “We plan to not only fish but do some acts of conservation as well. We plan on organizing a cleanup or something along those lines.”

And although the club members didn’t get to set as many hooks as they might have wanted to this fall, Napoleone said the group is setting a foundation that should make for an exciting spring.

“As much as we didn’t get to actually fish yet, we got a bunch of things accomplished that will help us when it comes to tournament season and next year’s fishing season in general,” Napoleone said.