Volume XI, Issue 25 ~ June 19-25, 2003

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Burton on the Bay | Chesapeake Outdoors | Sky Watch | Tidelog
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Burton on the Bay

Teach a Child to Fish, And You’ll Never Fish Alone

When’s the best time to go fishing?
— Other than where can I catch fish,
the most asked question in the sport.

To others, Grumpy is better known as Mackenzie Boughey. She’s been around for 18 months, and seeing she’s my granddaughter, I figured it was time she took up the sport. After all, the first discernible word to pop out of her mouth was issshh. Honest.

She is accustomed to having fish around. Her dad Jon has quite an aquarium setup at their Crofton home, and since she arrived from the hospital the first day of January ’02, her grandfather has filled her toy box with plush fish.

Her first issshh was directed at the household aquarium in mid-April. She got it right at the docks of Harrison’s Chesapeake House, when I introduced her to a rockfish of about 18 pounds, caught on the opener of the season. “Fissshh,” she screeched as she tried to hug it.

I knew it was time for Grumpy to go fishing. I got no objections from her mother Heather, a fisher who has taken rockfish of up to 48 pounds, nor from her dad, who knew it would be an opportunity to go fishing himself because of a line I draw in childcare.

I’ll tie knots, bait the hooks, unhook the fish, but I don’t do diapers. An icky worm or a strip of smelly squid I can abide, but not the stuff that ends up in Pampers. It doesn’t make good bait.

Fishing 101: It Must Be Fun
It’s okay to take fishing seriously, but forget all that weighty stuff if you want the newcomer to eventually become your fishing buddy. If it ain’t fun, interest will be lost quicker than a trophy fish when you make a mistake while reeling it in.

Keep in mind, also, that a new angler’s attention span and interest varies with age. The initial trips cannot be marathon affairs. Let the child decide when enough is enough, even if the catching is promising.

Make the introduction a festive affair, something to remember. A few fish reeled in will help, but catching is not the essential ingredient. If the time on the water is exciting, the student will want to come back.

If enthusiasm slackens, take a break. Put the rods down and, if you’re fishing a pond, go for a walk to check out frogs, ducks or geese or enjoy a snack. If the introduction comes on a boat, play a game or enjoy refreshments. Whether on land or in a boat, let the neophyte decide what the diversion will be. Above all, remember it’s his/her day.

Go in good weather, warm and dry. If by boat, go on calm waters, for seasickness or fright can turn your student off fishing. Always have a life jacket on the child, even on land, and apply suntan lotion or block liberally. The younger the greenie, the more vulnerable to sunburn. On the water, reflection of the sun adds to vulnerability.

If the newcomer is old enough to take fishing seriously, don’t present him/her with a rod you’re discarding. Saddling a youngster with a hand-me-down with problems, or a rig too big for easy handling won’t accomplish what your goal should be: teaching the fun, not the work, in fishing.

A Girl After My Own Heart

If you want to get the utmost pleasure from this sport of mine, take a kid fishing.

Grumpy got no hand-me-down when Jon, Grumpy, friend Alan and I headed to the home of our mutual friend Calvert, who has several ponds all stocked with trout, bass, bluegills, catfish, even some landlocked rockfish. She had her own brand-new colorful Scooby Doo rod-and-reel combination with a small plastic fish already attached to the line, a feature I quickly learned to appreciate. You see, as she has four budding teeth pushing through her gums alongside the quartet already there, she found that red fish a perfect teething ring.

Within minutes, she also found that though she liked the rod, it offered more fun when poked in the water to create a splash. She also used it as a walking stick while exploring the grassy banks of the pond at a gait that lost me a few pounds as I gave chase, while Calvert, Alan and Jon were casting away.

When Jon began rummaging through the tackle box suggesting a change in baits, I strongly hinted a change in something else would be more appropriate. Like I said, I don’t do diapers.

Refitted, Grumpy was back at teething on the red plastic fish, exploring the banks, taking a break by sitting on one of Calvert’s accommodating Labrador retrievers until I detected readiness for nap time. I realized that with people, dogs, a pond and so many other things around, shuteye was probably out of the question, but a rest in her stroller — which is now a plush carriage — seemed appropriate.

No sooner was she situated comfortably within the big blue buggy than her dad caught a frisky golden trout of about 15 inches. After a few moments of examination, she decided it was worthy of a kiss before it went back into the drink. Any hopes of a nap were now out of the question, especially when Alan followed suit with a rainbow of about 19 inches, his biggest freshwater fish ever. It had to be shown to everyone around, Grumps included.

I had only a few casts and caught only a couple nice bluegills and a trout of about a dozen inches while the others were casting and catching, but you know what? For me there was more enjoyment in playing catch-a-fish with Grumpy than catching the biggest trout in that pond or any other waters.

If you want to get the utmost pleasure from this sport of mine, take a kid fishing. Enjoy the response; the excitement, the awakening of a new interest. You might not reel in more than a fish or two, but you can catch an angling partner for a long time to come.

Just make it fun. Enough said …



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Last updated June 19, 2003 @ 3:22am