|Hunter Maldonado of Green River seems to enjoy his fishing trip to Flaming Gorge. He won the trip in an essay contest.|
Two teenagers who wrote award-winning essays received a big reward recentlyÃ¯Â¿Â½two fun-filled days of fishing in northeastern Utah with Utah Bass Pro Wayne Crowder and Division of Wildlife Resources conservation officers from across the state.
Conservation officers with the DWR put the trips together, which took place during the first and third weekends in July. Several wildlife officers participated in the trips, as did representatives from Sportsmans Warehouse, which provided many of the prizes.
"We wanted to give kids in Utah a chance to share their feelings about fishing and then provide two lucky winners with the fishing trip of a lifetime," said Stacey Jones, a sergeant with the DWR. "I don't know who had more fun on the trip, though; us or the kids."
The two lucky winners were 15-year-old Hunter Maldonado of Green River and 18-year-old Chris Matern of West Jordan. Their two-day trips included specialized fishing instruction from Crowder, DWR conservation officers and Sportsmans Warehouse representatives.
Essays were accepted from junior and high school age students across Utah late last winter. The students were asked to focus their essays on their "Best Utah Fishing Trip," and prizes were awarded to three winners in two age categories.
"In February, the essays started to arrive," Jones said. "The entries were judged based on how accurate and descriptive they were; on the absence of illegal activity; on how their family was involved in the trip and most importantly: why did this experience make an impression on them?"
"This is why the officers felt this project was so critical," Jones said, "In order to hook kids of all ages on fishing, we need to build memories that keep them coming back on the mountain for a family experience, rather that sitting in front of a video game at home."
One of the award winners, Hunter Maldonado, a freshman at Green River High School, has grown up in a small town filled with hunting and fishing traditions.
"His dad loves to fish for bass, but Hunter is an avid goose hunter and has always been a little lukewarm about fishing," Jones said. "However, after writing a fantastic essay about a fishing trip with his dad and grandfather to Lake Powell, Hunter won his own fishing trip to Flaming Gorge."
Hunter split his time between bass fishing on the lake and trout fishing on the Green River with his parents, a group of wildlife officers, Sportsmans Warehouse reps and Crowder.