Memories flow through your mind like current in a fast river when you take a child fishing. These memories bring back close family members who once took you fishing.
My granddaughter Ellie recently asked if I would take her fishing. I waited a long time for that moment, like the early days when I took her mother Holly fishing or when my granddad took me on cherished outings. The memories flowed!
Ellie, 3 years old, had watched an educational show on fish that apparently mentioned fishing. Her mom was cooking dinner and was shocked when Ellie asked, “Mommy, will you take me fishing?”
“I think that is a question you should ask your grandpa,” Holly answered.
A week later Ellie, Holly and I walked down to a dock close to a lake’s point. I scouted out fish populations the day before and was sure this would be a great place to dunk some worms. My buddy Sprig, an 8-year-old yellow Labrador retriever was excited to be included.
We were blessed by ample cloud cover, making air temperatures comfortable. I purchased Ellie a new Disney Princess rod-and-reel combination. The entire outfit was pink with about a 3-foot rod. I checked the drag system and it was worthless, but a big bluegill would likely not require drag, so I thought the little outfit would work. Little did I know what would soon happen.
The lake was calm and I hooked worms on small steel hooks with long shanks. The longer shanks make unhooking a bluegill that often swallow bait easier to remove. Ellie insisted on bringing me the worms, not at all bothered by their squirmy nature.
The fishing was good and Ellie quickly caught her first fish, a small, 3/4-pound largemouth bass. We took photos and quickly released the bass to grow much larger. Several bluegill hit and soon Ellie became proficient at reeling in fish with a little help from Mommy and Grandpa.
I glanced at Ellie fishing beside her mother and was taken back to moments with my grandparents on pond and lake banks. They were raised in a time when fishing meant feeding their families. I didn’t know that as a child and was just fascinated at the items in my grandfather’s tackle boxes.
In fact, the entire trip was an adventure and fish were exciting creatures to be caught and examined. It was evident that Ellie was catching her ancestors fishing passion mixed with her beautiful child’s curiosity.
Each time a fish was landed, Ellie insisted on touching the fish while Sprig moved in to take a sniff of the unusual smelling creature. I was trying to handle each fish while these two were satisfying their curiosities, giving Holly a good laugh. Finally, I was able to wrestle the keeper fish away to a five-gallon bucket that served as a portable livewell – the beginning of a nice fish fry.
The morning progressed when a worm was devoured off the bottom and Holly said, “Dad, don’t think this is a bluegill.”
She was right. Ellie’s Princess rod was doubled over from the weight of a 3-pound channel catfish that was providing quite a fight. That was the moment I wished for a drag system on the child’s rod and reel. Somehow Holly and Ellie fought the fish long enough for exhaustion to set in and a nice catfish was added to our bucket. I later hooked a 2 1/2-pound channel catfish on my spinning outfit that Ellie reeled in like an old pro.
Ellie caught a small bluegill and I released it in front of the dock. Sprig ran forward to see where the fish went and started sliding. He tried to stay on the dock but his forward motion propelled his 80-pound body into the lake with his long legs flailing, resembling Goofy from cartoon fame. Ellie and Holly had a good laugh over my silly dog’s plight while he easily swam back to shore. Labrador retrievers love to swim. I was afraid his plunge would frighten the fish, but it seemed to have little effect.
Our polarizing lens glasses showed the big school of bluegill fighting for each worm we dropped. We thought about catching more but decided that the bucket held enough to feed our families. Besides, the school of bluegill would be there a few more days.
Back at the house Ellie examined my spinning outfit and asked, “Grandpa, may I have a fishing rod like that?”
“Soon, I answered, get a little older and Grandpa will make sure you have a better rod and reel.”
She seemed happy with that and walked in the house with Mom for a peanut butter and jelly sandwich. Sprig laid in sunlight that broke through the clouds and snoozed while his fur dried, no doubt dreaming about sniffing fish while I filleted our beautiful catch that would make a fine dinner.
That day could not have been more successful. I started creating a future fishing partner while sharing the good, clean outdoor experience with my daughter and granddaughter. A combination of schooling and plenty of outdoor experiences certainly made Holly a well-rounded woman as it hopefully will for Ellie.
There are many reasons to take a child fishing. A day of fishing adds to the quality of life while taking children away from television shows or computer programs. Having fun catching fish, too, eliminates peer pressure children face in schools – at least for a little while.
I can’t imagine anything more worthwhile.
– Kenneth Kieser, a veteran outdoors writer and member of the Waterfowlers Hall of Fame and National Fresh Water Fishing Hall of Fame, writes a weekly outdoors column for The Examiner. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.