Event builds passion for the outdoors

By Jeff Smith

Ethan Sorensen with Dusty Rodiek and a perch he caught on Feb. 24 at Sheridan Lake.

A group of fishermen were out ice fishing at Sheridan Lake on Feb. 24. The event was not for the fishermen though, it was more about fishing with the boys with the Rapid City Club for Boys.

“It’s a neat event. You can tell they are having fun,” said Craig Oyler, organizer of the event  called “Hooked on Hardwater.”

A lot of the men fishing were professional anglers. Altogether, there were 60 fishermen there from 13 states and Canada.

This was the fifth year for “Hooked on Hardwater.” Seventy-one boys were able to come to the event.

“Most of these boys are underprivileged so they get to experience an opportunity they wouldn’t normally have,” Oyler said.

Another big benefit is that the boys receive one-on-one attention and spend time with a positive role model.

Many of the boys live in single-parent homes or with extended family members. The boys that were at the event were aged 8-12.

A lot of the mentees get clothing and different items at area stores for ice fishing. They are able to keep everything they get.

The guys that come spend a few days in the Hills and Oyler said the time here is almost like a vacation.

“They get to experience everything the Hills has to offer,” Oyler said.

Bob Lowrey, who is one of the sponsors for the event, said “Hooked on Hardwater” is also good for the Hill City economy, as many people stay in the area and eat in the area.

The night before the guys get out on the ice the fishermen meet the boys.

“Today when they are out on the ice they are already fishing buddies,” Oyler said.

Normally, the event takes place at Deerfield Lake but Oyler said there was too much slush out there. A last minute switch was made so the event could be at Sheridan Lake.

“The Forest Service was great at switching the permit for us,” Oyler said.

Dusty Rodiek, of the Watertown area, has been fishing every year during the event and his son also participates. His wife also came this year which was a nice bonus. He said he likes passing on his love and passion for ice fishing to other people.

“Teaching fishing skills comes natural,” said Rodiek.

He has worked in parks and recreation for awhile and is in the process of creating a property management company near Watertown. He is also a part-time fishing guide in the Watertown area.

Clark Davis from St. Cloud, Minn. said he liked meeting the boys, like his mentor Jaydon.

He was participating in the event for the third time. He really thought it was a special event and liked how the public gets involved.

Being able to come out to the area is also one of his favorite parts. He said those in the Hill City area were familiar with what was happening and it was nice that people cared what they were doing.

Davis said the Rapid City Club for Boys does a lot of good things and is run pretty well.

“That’s more unusual than you think,” Davis said.

A fundraiser banquet was held in Rapid City on Feb. 24. The funds raised make it possible for outdoor activities to happen all year for the boys.

Over the last four years, $100,000 has been raised at the banquet.

“It’s for the community to come and hear the stories but then we have live and silent auctions, tons of raffle prizes. A lot of unique items are available there,” Oyler said.

Many of the pro fishermen donate fishing trips for an auction.

The boys also take part in a bike ride on the Mickelson Trail, camping trips and other fishing trips throughout the year. There are usually mentor hunts that take place too.  The Club for Boys has a cabin near Deerfield Lake where boys are able to go for trips.

The goal of outdoor activities programs is to take the boys out and away from video games. The program invites boys to take part in pro-social activities and they are able to learn skills to take them throughout the rest of their life.