Uncharted waters: International students try ice fishing for the first time

The ice fishing trip was instigated by Turkish student Naz Karaman.  (Roger Cosman/CBC - image credit)
The ice fishing trip was instigated by Turkish student Naz Karaman. (Roger Cosman/CBC - image credit)

It's March break — and a group of international high school students spent part of it doing a uniquely Canadian pastime.

On Wednesday, a group of international students from St. Malachy's Memorial High School in Saint John took to Renforth Cove, in Rothesay, to go ice fishing for the first time.

"It's kind of like freezing. But it's fun," said Jessie Tran, who is from the southern region of Vietnam.

Roger Cosman/CBC
Roger Cosman/CBC

Naz Karaman, a Turkish student, is the one who instigated the trip. Her family lives near the sea in Izmir, so she's no stranger to a hook, line and sinker, but she finds fishing from a shack a little easier than in the Aegean Sea.

"When you fish from the seaside, I cannot throw the bait far enough. So I can't catch that many fish. But in here, it's fun," said Naz, who pulled a fish from the ice while chatting with CBC.

She asked their home stay coordinator to take the group ice fishing after she spotted the huts while being shown around Saint John.

"In my city, we don't get snow and it doesn't get cold. So I was really excited for it," she said.

Roger Cosman/CBC
Roger Cosman/CBC

And the group got out there just in time, as ice fishing shelters must be removed from provincial waterways by March 15.

WATCH | Students from Turkey, Germany, Italy & Vietnam drop their lines through the ice on Renforth Cove

Appreciating what is taken for granted

They were led by Marijke Blok, the home stay coordinator assigned to their school by Atlantic Education International, an organization created by the province to bring students to New Brunswick.

Blok has about as much ice fishing experience as Naz or Jessie.

"The last time I fished was probably more than 50 years ago," said Blok. "And, you know, obviously I didn't take to it."

Blok said the activity is one of many held to give students a taste of the Canadian experience. The group recently went curling and will soon get to see a maple syrup camp.

Roger Cosman/CBC
Roger Cosman/CBC

She said accompanying the students on their adventures has helped her appreciate the province.

"We get to see our own stuff through other people's eyes and some of it's pretty impressive. You know, we just take it for granted," Blok said.

Frederika Scherle, who is from Germany, said it's amazing to discover a new place with a group of students from around the world because they all experience things differently, like when Jessie first saw snow.

Roger Cosman/CBC
Roger Cosman/CBC

"It's something you would never — like in Germany, we have snow and it's just something you would never think of, [that] somebody's never seen that in their life," she said.

Having fun with friends

Frederika turned out to be integral to the group's success at Renforth.

"Everybody's scared of touching the fish," she said, so she was put in charge of removing the hooks from the cold, slippery smelt.

"I'm the only one who doesn't even stick the thing in the hole," Frederika said. "I'm just sitting there and waiting for people to catch the fish."

Roger Cosman/CBC
Roger Cosman/CBC

It's a role she filled out of necessity, not through past experience — it was also her first time fishing.

"I'm not comfortable. It's just somebody has to do it."

Naz enjoyed her time in the shack.

"The most fun part is being here with my friends. And it's really good when you have company in here, because it will be boring when you just stand and hold on [to a rod]," Naz said.

Roger Cosman/CBC
Roger Cosman/CBC

She's decided to stay in the province after graduating high school to study computer science at the University of New Brunswick.

She said she'd ice fish again, but maybe not every weekend.

"Once a year it would be fun to take my friends."