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Why Sunfish In An Aquarium Are Fun And Educational For Kids

Updated on August 28, 2009
A Story Of Amazement
A Story Of Amazement

Dinner Was Not Going To Be The Bluegills He Caught

Four years ago we took my friends nephew to the lake fishing. It was the last day of summer vacation and Evan was ready to enjoy the hot summer day on the water. The weather was perfect and we did a good job of filling up the live-well with Yellow Perch and Sunfish. Evan started talking about keeping the fish and I said sure we were going to. I knew I would be cleaning fish as soon as we got to the house.

Cheryl suggested finish up there and heading home. She would cook dinner on the grill while I cleaned the fish. We put Evan in charge of emptying the live-well and packing the fish on ice while we shored up the boat. It takes about twenty minutes to unload the boat and load up the car. It takes another twenty minutes to drive from the lake back to the house. I would guess at least one hour went by from the time we put the fish on ice until I laid them out for the above photograph. I was starting to clean the fish when Evan came out and told me that Auntie had said he could keep his fish. I said okay and then asked him, as a joke, if he was going to clean his catch. He said no, he was putting them in our aquarium. The thing was, I had already told him he could not do that.

How Could I, Not Give In?

I was slightly annoyed but the little girl who had a bucket full of dead Sunfish many years ago,told me to let him have his way. He would learn a lesson as the fish had been on newspaper for another 20 minutes and they were sure to be dead. I laughed to myself and suggested that it was probably way too late while I continued to carve away at the fish in hand. Evan was poking around and said that the fish were moving, sort of. He gathered up the Sunfish and a few Perch. I told him our aquarium would only hold about 6 at that size and he took the six he thought were the prettiest. I was sure that this was a mistake but figured he would learn the hard way.

Reflections From A Household Bucket

Over the years I have spent many hours fishing for all kinds of fish. There is something about this sport that keeps me coming back, as often as I can. I can't say there is one particular thing that intrigues me about the sport. I do know that over the years the appeal has taken on a sort of spirit of it's own. It changes and grows as time moves on. The first trip was sure the one that hooked me and from there it has grown into a love affair of sorts. That is why I think kids enjoy catching and keeping their fish.

The little girl who caught that first bullhead catfish, in a creek some 45 years ago was amazed at the simple fact that there were fish under the water and she could not see them but, she could catch them on a fishing line. That interest was probably born from the amazement and the amusement of it all. From that day, I would get excited at the opportunity to drop a baited line in the water and see what would happen.

The First Attempt At Catch And Keep

Sometime when I was about 9 years old, I discovered a park near our house, that had a small pond right in the middle of it. My Mother had taken us ice skating there in the winter. Now it was summer and being a typical kid, one day I made my way to that same park, on my bicycle. We no longer lived close to the park but my bicycle made short work of the longer distance. I was alone and just checking it out from the summer perspective. I can not tell you how excited I got when I found several boys at the shaded end of the pond fishing for Sunfish.

I threw my bicycle down in the grass and hurried over to watch what they were doing. I was never too shy so it did not take me long to learn exactly what it would take, for me to be right along side those boys, catching my own Sunfish. I was back on my bike and headed to the office to have a chat with Dad. We lived above my Father's office and that made him available for pestering kids to seek the advise of the man with all the answers. Dad use to give me this look that must have meant " what are you up to now?".When I went inside I saw the look as he asked me where I had been. I could not contain my excitement.

In a matter of seconds I was begging for cash. "And what do you need this money for?" he asked with that fatherly grin on his face. I needed fish hooks, very tiny, fish hooks, that were called Kirby's, and I had no money. The other problem was I did not know where to purchase the hooks I needed. The boys in the park had an uncle that gave them some hooks and that was all they could tell me.

Dad Came Through For Me

Now I had to explain what I was doing so far away from home and why I was talking to strange boys and where was I going to find a fishing pole? I had all the answers except where to buy those special, tiny Kirby's, fish hooks. Dad was a gem. He laughed as he reached for the phone book and looked up a telephone number. He spoke to someone on the other end and I waited. For all I knew he had gone back to work and was ignoring my plea. When I heard him ask about fish hooks my heart took a leap.

That evening we made our way to the sporting goods store downtown. I had never been inside that store and my eyes must have been the size of watermelons. I had no clue what most of the stuff on display was but I knew I liked the way that store felt. The old man behind the counter had a big old grin across his face as he slowly turned to open a big sliding drawer full of small wooden bottles, lined up in rows. He handed my Dad one of the little wooden bottle and asked if he would be needing some fishing line to go with the hooks. Dad looked down at me and back toward that old fellow with the grin and, said he would take a small spool of 2lb. test line also. He dug deep in his pocket and pulled out some change to pay for the purchase. I could hardly stand still. I was about to have everything I needed to catch me some fish.

The trip back to the house was, but a blur. The only thing I remember was Dad said I would have to dig up some worms and sweep up the office and, dust the office furniture to repay him for the sporting goods he bought me. He said I would have to help Mom in the kitchen too. I did not care. I was going fishing all by myself. All I had to do was find me a bucket and dig me some worms and sweep or something.

The Sunfish Were Too Pretty To Release

The size of a silver dollar, shiny and, brightly colored, Sunfish have a way of swimming right into the heart of a child. I caught about half a dozen the next day. I made a jig with my string wrapped on a good stick I found. It fit in my pocket. My Mom's kitchen bucket filled with dirt and some worms, hung from my handlebars as I sped to the park in anticipation. I laid on my belly with my arms dangling over the rock retaining wall until my bony ribs felt like they were going to poke through my skin. My hip bones kept scraping the rocks as I jigged and jumped up and laid back down and added my fish to the bucket. It hurt but I didn't care because I was catching my fish. I had to dump my worms so I could save my fish and all of the worms soon wiggled away.

That bucket full of water and my sore, beat up self, made for a long ride home. I did not foresee the weight of the water or the slopping and splashing that resulted in not more than an inch of water by the time I got home. I rushed to get the pitcher to refill my bucket. That done, my next task was to show my Dad my prized possessions. I was not gone more than a few minutes so you can imagine how surprised I was, to see my fish gasping for air, as we peered into that bucket.

Dad's smile turned into a look I will never forget, when he realized what I had done. Looking back, I suppose he thought I had brought home a mess of fish to clean. Those tiny Sunfish were on their sides and not long for the world. I took an ass chewing I will never forget. The first response was take them back where they came from but, after I explained my trip home and he realized I had already added chlorinated water from the kitchen tap, all he would say is that they will be dead soon. He walked away and I cried for my ignorance, then I carried the bucket down to the alley and dumped the contents into the cinders by the trash cans. All the fish were gone the next day and I never could figure out where they disappeared to. Later in life I decided that I had most likely served up a treat to the local raccoon family.

My first attempt at "catch and keep" was one of the biggest disappointment's of my childhood. Not to mention that sweeping the office, dusting the furniture and helping in the kitchen remained to be done. I fished all summer with my homemade fishing jig. I continued to try to think of ways to keep those fish too. Disappointed I was but, determined was a better word for this little girl.

Before I prepared to clean them, I carefully placed the catch out by size and species so we could take a photo of the fish we caught the day before school started.
Before I prepared to clean them, I carefully placed the catch out by size and species so we could take a photo of the fish we caught the day before school started.
Proud to show the product of his day on the lake.
Proud to show the product of his day on the lake.

I Did Not Believe My Eyes

The Sunfish looked to be goners as he carefully put them in our aquarium. Laying on their sides and not even breathing there was not much chance this was going to have the outcome Evan was hoping for. I told him not to expect much and returned to cleaning the rest of our catch. I was just about finished when Evan came out and said for me to come look at the fish. I gathered myself and headed inside. Much to my surprise those fish were now swimming about. They had a strange milky glaze over them that covered even their eyes. It only took another hour and that glaze went away. The kid was happy, I was amazed and those fish lived in our aquarium until I released them into a nearby river a good year later.

The Best Way I Know To Get The Fish To The Aquarium Alive

Keep the fish on ice from the fresh water to the aquarium. Try your best to allow this time to be as short as possible. I say put them on the ice as soon as you are ready to drive. When you get to the aquarium, it is probably best to gradually allow the fish to warm. That would be done by adding the fish to the water with the ice still on them. I would suggest putting ice and fish into a large plastic zip lock bag or one that you can tie closed. Put enough water from the aquarium into the bag so that the ice and fish will gradually melt.

Please understand that we did this by the hit and miss method. It was pure luck as far as I can say. I do know that you can buy a portable air pump that will operate on batteries. We have one now. This would be the best way to go. It also can be used as a backup for your aquarium if the power goes off at home. I found this article that might help with keeping your childs catch, if they would like to try it.


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    • tillsontitan profile image

      Mary Craig 

      7 years ago from New York

      It sounds like you really had an exciting time of it. You wrote so well I was beginning to feel your anticipation. I lived in the city as a child but we made trips upstate and my Dad was the ultimate freshwater fisherman. He built a "well" in our backyard in Queens and we had bullheads and sunnies in that well for years. Voted up and funny because it was amusing.

    • PeanutButterWine profile image


      7 years ago from North Vancouver, B.C. Canada

      ooh I grew up in a small town on Vancouver Island and I used to LOVE fishing! There is nothing more exciting than feeling that tug on your line, or more tasty then making a fire and roasting your 'catch' and eating it right there... thank you for bringing back those wonderful peaceful memories. Great Hub!

    • C.S.Alexis profile imageAUTHOR


      8 years ago from NW Indiana


      Where did You come up with exotic diseases and parasites?

      With high regard,


    • profile image


      8 years ago

      you should not release fish kept in an aquarium back into the wild. many exotic diseases and parasites can be transfered into the native fish then back into the wild.

      look at all the trouble we have with invasive species, do you think invasive diseases and parasites would be any different?

    • C.S.Alexis profile imageAUTHOR


      10 years ago from NW Indiana


      You already know why! Glad you enjoyed this.

    • Bard of Ely profile image

      Steve Andrews 

      10 years ago from Lisbon, Portugal

      I enjoyed your fish tale too!

    • jim10 profile image


      11 years ago from ma

      Fishing can be a lot of fun. As a kid I had a pond down the street behind my friends house. We always caught lots of catfish there. I actually brought my kids their one time and their are now a ton of them. The fish had to have quadrupled in numbers at least. My boys each caught a Sunfush at a cub scout camp.

    • premsingh profile image


      11 years ago

      interesting details about fish catch. Though I never caught a fish but I observed people doing it and with lot of sincerety. I can understand the people's love for the sport.

    • C.S.Alexis profile imageAUTHOR


      11 years ago from NW Indiana

      G-Ma, funny you should mention this. We did that for a girl friend who had never caught a fish @ 38 yrs. old. We told her later and had a big laugh but, not until she had actually caught her first real fish. Thanks for sharing. C.S.

    • G-Ma Johnson profile image

      Merle Ann Johnson 

      11 years ago from NW in the land of the Free

      Very sweet and interesting...wish I could try it...But :o( not anymore...I remember the first time my 2nd granddaughter caught her first "Bullheads"....we had out boat moared in a Marina and we went there one night (was still early and light tho) and My then partner would hook a live bull head on the hook....of the line she was holding(he pulled really far out so as she couldn't feel what he was doing)and then would let it go. Oh My we had so much fun and she was so excited...She had to take each one home to her daddy, my son......That was her first time fishing....thanks for the reminder  G-Ma :o) hugs


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