Introduce a Child to Fishing
Time Spent Fishing with a Kid Doesn't Count Against Anyone
If you think it impossible to get your little ball of energy to sit still long enough to say hello, you may want to take them fishing. There is something special about the water. There is something special about worms, crickets or even corn or dough balls that can intrigue a small child into wanting to learn more. It can actually hold the attention of a hyper ADD child better than another hit on the drugs the doctor supplied. Sometimes it just takes a patient and interested adult to take time out and share a trip fishing.
When I was about six years old, my parents let me stay with my grandparents for a couple of weeks. I would stay with my mother's parents for the first week, then my father's parents the next week. I have to say, I can almost remember everything we did - it was that special of a time. Both sets of grandparents were very different and where they each lived was different. One lived in a trailer in the country outside of town along a creek that had begun to be recovered from being over-polluted by run-off from coal mining operations. The other was a retired store owner that lived in town only blocks from downtown.
I spent the first week with my Nanie and Papa out on Dense Run. They also had a Scotty mobile home that was really cool to me. Since they hadn't had a little kid around for some time, they did their best to come up with ideas that might interest me. I didn't slow down much, and was always looking for something to do. Papa came outside one time and asked me if I knew how to use a saw and a hammer. I had never used a saw or a hammer before so I asked him to show me. There was a pile of old lumber out behind the house, mostly smaller boards of 1X2 or 2X2 boards three or four feet long. There were a few other boards that were 1 X 8 or 1X10 boards too.
Papa got out a ruler and pencil and showed me how to mark a board and then cut it with the saw. He said I should practice by cutting several pieces anywhere from 12 inches to eighteen inches long. After a few hours and a lot of boards, I went back in the house and told Papa I was out of boards. He was totally surprised. I had cut everything up into pieces. So he brought out a box of nails. None of them were the same size, as I recall, but it didn't matter. My next practice was to see if I could teach myself how to hammer nails into the boards. I did pretty good, but was board pretty fast - so papa said, let's try this. He held two boards together and put a nail to hold them. Wow, that was neat. If we did that several times, used one of the wider boards, and there, we had a little stool. Soon we had half a dozen, then a dozen little wooden stools. Not that I would have ever sat down on one - they probably would have fallen apart!
I used up all the nails, all the wood, and now had painted each of them different colors. This was great fun and took up two of the days I was to spend with Nanie and Papa. On the third day Papa said, do you know how to sing to worms? What? Sing to worms? He then took one of the few remaining pieces of wood that wasn't nailed to another piece of wood and drove it into the ground near the flowerbed. Then he took a file, the kind that you cut wood down with, and pulled it against the wood. It vibrated a lot - and in a matter of a few seconds the biggest, longest night crawler worms started coming up out of the ground. Not one, but about half a dozen. We picked them up and put them in a coffee can. We added a little fresh dirt to keep them covered and moved a little ways down the garden and did it again. We also took a pitch fork and stuck it deep into the ground, then you could hit the handle and it would vibrate a lot too - causing the same effect making the works come up out of the ground. I kept on doing this and he said I should keep practicing until we had enough worms to go fishing. I believe that was about two days later.
With a three pound coffee can full of big juicy night crawlers, we got in Papa's pick-up truck and rode to Cheat Lake. Sitting on the bank of the lake, we caught fish after fish after fish - the reward for all the work of catching all the worms - at least I thought so. Then we went home and Nanie cleaned about half a dozen of the biggest fish we had caught and fried them up with some hush puppies and mashed potatoes. Now that was a great reward.
I think, looking back, it was pretty accidental that we ended up going fishing. But I had always heard stories from my Papa about his place in Franklin on the river where he and his brothers would go fishing. Holidays were intended to be trips that included fishing. Everyone in my family fished. Now I was a fisherman too.
The next week, I was to spend with my Grampy and Nanie June. This was a totally different situation. Living within a few blocks of downtown Morgantown, and having "Friends Store" out in the Flats near the Medical Center, we did a lot of different things. My Grampy took me into his store and said to look through all the plastic models and see if there were any I would like to build. There were all kinds of car models, airplanes, war ships, but the really cool ones were dinosaurs and weird creatures like fictional characters from horror movies - King Kong, Dracula and so on. I picked the characters and along with breathing a lot of airplane glue, painted them up too. It did take a couple days with having to wait on things to dry so I killed a lot of time with other projects. One was catching honey bees in the back yard in jars. Then my Grampy asked if I had ever been fishing. I pumped my chest out and said, I had and that I knew how to sing to worms. He laughed and said, then you can get us some bait, and I'll take you fishing in the morning.
I caught no less than half a can of night crawlers that evening around his house. I used his pitch fork because the ground was a lot harder. I think he was surprised how well I did calling the worms out of the soil. The next morning Nanie June fixed us each a thermos of coffee - well his was coffee, mine was three parts cream, two parts sugar and something like coffee in between. We left the house before daylight we drove to a lake called Horseshoe Lake north of town. We parked and I went to the back of the car to help carry stuff we needed. Grampy handed me his new fishing rod, then the fishing tackle box, then the worms, then the thermos, at which time I had to set down the fishing rod, then he slammed the trunk shut...on his new fishing rod. Oops.
It broke the end of the fishing rod off, his new rod. But he recognized what he had done, and instead of being mad at me just said, well, we have two rods and one isn't broken, let's go fishing. He rigged it up with a hook and slip sinker, then cast the line way out into the pond using one of the big night crawler worms I had caught. Then he took a little bobber out of his pocket and pulled some line loose above the reel hooking the bobber to the line. He told me to watch and when the bobber jumped up, be sure to take it off first then reel in the fish.
In about ten minutes, the bobber jumped and I jumped. I took off the bobber then reeled in a very large trout. It must have been large because when we took it home, he only cleaned out the guts then put it in a pan of water - then froze everything. If a friend of his came over, he would go to the freezer and pull out my fish showing off the big prize I had caught. I was beaming with pride.
It has taken me almost 1500 words to tell two weeks of stories that remain vivid in my memory fifty years later. Is that not incentive enough to take the time to take a kid fishing? A neighbor kid, grand kid, son or daughter? Ok, let's get a little more technical.
Where to Fish
It isn't important to be in a boat, off-shore, or deep into the ocean to take a kid fishing for the first time. Fish live and eat in small ponds and lakes, and there are even places where some states or other governments set aside as free fishing areas. The key is to be safe, know where you can park, walk and sit. Don't make it a big deal about the where - make it a big deal if they catch a fish.
What to Fish For
I don't care if you are a single mom, a social worker or a teacher, taking the kid is the important part. What you catch is secondary, but let me suggest this. Don't attempt to go for a huge bass if that doesn't happen regularly where you go fishing. Ask at the tackle shop what folks can catch the easiest from the bank a the park on the local lake. It might be panfish of some variety, or crappie with minnows or carp with dough balls or corn. Go for the easy catch as this is what is important. Some action, a fish tugging on the other end of the line, will make the kid's day.
If you aren't up to cleaning and preparing the fish for the skillet, either ask a friend who is or throw them back after you catch them trying not to injure the fish in the process. Bending down te barbs on the hooks usually provides for a quick, safe release and the fish can go back to doing whatever it is fish do.
You will get as much out of this time afield as the child does - but the memories of the trip will reside in their mind for the rest of their life.The calming effect of a few hours of sitting still waiting, anticipating a big fish tugging back on the line is something that tugs at your most primal instincts. Have some fun, and take a kid fishing.