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Tamara Riddle was one of several Girl Scouts who experienced ice fishing for the first time inside the comfort of the Park Rapids Community Fish House. This rock bass was her first fish ever. (Shannon Geisen / Enterprise)

Ice angling with the Girl Scouts, Dad

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Last weekend a group of Park Rapids Girl Scouts experienced the sport of ice fishing, the majority for their first time, on the icy terrain of Fish Hook Lake.

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The eight six-year-olds were enthusiastic about trying to land a slippery sunfish, pesky perch or any sort of other freshwater fish species.

Originally, my plan was to stop out at the Girl Scout headquarters, the Park Rapids Community Fish House, to snap a few photos of the fishing females.

To even hold a camera in the past few months has been impossible after a trio of shoulder surgeries that have halted my photojournalism, fishing and teaching.

After speaking with the Girl Scout den leader Shannon Geisen about when and where to meet up, the opportunity soon emerged to lend assistance.

"We are planning for ten girls," Geisen shared. I immediately thought about the six holes of the community fish house. Four scouts would be watching instead of fishing.

"Dad, can you come babysit me," I asked as my father picked up the phone. I explained the Girl Scout's plan to head out on Fish Hook and my dad, having had three shoulder surgeries himself, knew what this entailed. Since I can currently lift 1-2 pounds, he understood that augering an icehole, setting up an additional 6'x12' Clam portable fish house, or carrying just about any type of fishing equipment, would be impossible. "Count me in," he said.

After speaking with Park Rapids Darkhouse Association member and driving force behind the Community Fish House Sheila Heide, I discovered that the unique notebook log inside the fish house indicated catches of some nice northern pike and walleye, but not a steady stream of sunfish or crappie over the past month.

Landing a pike or walleye would surely be exciting for a first-grader, but consistent catches, even if they're small fish, are imperative to getting kids hooked on fishing.

As I humbly watched my dad drill holes and set up the portable structure, the gang of girls began bounding onto the ice.

The girls entered the warm Community Fish House, courtesy of Mike Swanson, who checks on the shelter daily and soon discovered the underwater camera, rigged rods, rattle reels and hot cocoa. Parent volunteer and avid angler Steph Lippert began helping girls get set up to fish. Soon thereafter, the Heide family showed up to lend angling expertise and assistance in the two fish houses as well.

A few girls followed my dad and I over to the portable shanty, where their first task was to scoop out the slush-filled holes.

Only one ice scoop sunk to the bottom in the process.

Yet after each and every Girl Scout caught several fish between the two structures, the lost ice scoop was forgotten. The squeals and screams shared between the group carried into the adjacent fish houses and at the end of the afternoon, each Scout walked away with their very own ice scoop, minnow scoop and a new-found appreciation for angling.

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