July 4th is not the best time to fish, especially during the day. Some fish feed at every opportunity, but the weather is hot and sitting in a boat or on a dock can be unpleasant. To be more precise, I was enjoying our air conditioning.
“Grandpa, will you take me fishing?” my grandson Jace asked.
Those are words many of us waited a lifetime to hear. My grandfathers took me fishing. I thought they just sought company, but they wanted to spend quality time with their grandson.
I quickly rigged up some rods and reels for nightcrawlers off the bottom for catfish or big bluegill. I had to walk a bit faster to keep up with the excited boy.
My grandson, Jace, is 7 years old and exceptionally smart. He asks amazing questions while we are fishing that I try answering:
“Grandpa, do fish smell bait?”
“Yes, they do, great question.”
“Have we caught the same bluegill over and over again?”
“No, different fish.”
“How many big fish are in this lake?”
“Why are the big fish so big?”
“They have good forage.”
“What is forage?”
“Do fish stay under boat docks?”
Plus many questions that made sense, while putting the pressure on grandpa in how I answered. Kids retain facts when they are interested. Each question answered is another step in their education of fishing. Learning is subjective and all input makes kids think more. There are no silly questions asked by a child, just bad answers from impatient adults.
The morning progressed and the bite was slow, not surprising considering how many kids had been swimming in the area. Jace hooked a big bluegill and enjoyed good pulls while listening or perhaps not listening to grandpa talk him through the fight:
Keep your rod tip up, don’t reel so fast, let the fish run a bit to exhaust its energy while pulling against the rod, take your time and other bits of advice that were probably unnecessary. Jace was doing a good job fighting the fish without my help.
Grandpa hooked another good-sized bluegill and handed the rod to Jace. He fought the fish on spinning tackle like a pro, or at least that is how grandpa saw it. Friends in passing kayaks applauded Jace when the fish was landed, a kind gesture that made the boy grin.
Then the wait started for another fish to bite. Jace patiently sat on the dock, studying his line and occasionally taking out slack per grandpa’s suggestion.
“How long have you fished grandpa?”
“About 63 years.”
“Wow, really, how old are you?”
“I am 66.”
“So what year were you born?”
“Wow, did they fish back then too?”
Then another bluegill bit and that painful line of questioning ended. Jace fought the nice fish in for a quick release. Soon another hit and another, then a slow period while waiting for a bite – the time where most anglers differ. Some learn patience early while others give up and go home. The best stay and wait. Jace studied his line and didn’t move an inch, making grandpa very proud.
“Grandpa, what are the fish doing now?”
“Hot day, so not much unless they smell our baits.”
“Then they swim in for a smell and then a bite.”
“Do fish always smell their bait before biting?”
“No, some just hit, sort of like a reaction strike.”
“What does that mean?”
“They hit without thinking, they just see the bait or lure and bite it.”
“Does a hook hurt fish?”
“Some claim it does and some claim it doesn’t. I only know that fish feel pressure and suddenly can not just swim away. I think they must panic and that is when they fight the best.”
“Do fish like to fight?”
“No, they just want to escape.”
“Are they scared grandpa?”
“I don’t know, maybe.”
Then another bluegill hit.
I pondered over his questions and hoped my answers were adequate. Many of my peers in their youth decided that fishing was boring. They may have gone on a horrible trip in poor weather when the fish did not bite. The adults probably stayed too long while the kids longed for home or any place more comfortable.
Kids see the world differently than adults. Our youth still have a beautiful innocence and imagination. A fish in the water is mysterious and exciting. Their questions are always legitimate and never silly – no matter what.
Answer these questions carefully because a child almost never forgets. Your answers could be the difference between creating a fishing buddy for life, or discouraging him or her from ever fishing again.
– 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.