I have not seen my grandchildren for over two months because of the COVID-19 virus. This is especially hard because they are missing the good fishing on our lake, a special time we share every spring. All six grandchildren will hopefully continue our fishing legacy throughout their lives.
We recently got encouraging phone calls from three of our grandchildren. The first was from my 7-year-old grandson, Jace:
“Grandpa, guess what, I caught a great big bass today. I hooked it, reeled it in and landed it all by myself. The bass weighed over 4 pounds.”
“What did you use for bait buddy?”
“I used a piece of hot dog and caught the biggest fish, there was 10 of us fishing,” Jace said. “Oh yeah, we caught two small crappie and a turtle too.”
“How did the bass fight?”
“Really hard, but I was able to reel it in and all by myself.”
The second call came from my 11-year-old grandson, Tucker:
“Grandpa, I found a pond by our new house,” Tucker said. “I ride my bike there almost every day and catch fish.”
“Great buddy, what are you catching?”
“Bluegill, bass and crappie” he answered.
“What kind of baits are you using?”
“Spinners and worms, they really are biting,” he said. “But my rod is old and I need a new one.”
“Don’t you have a birthday coming up?”
“Yes, I do.”
“Would you like a new rod and reel for your birthday?’
“Ok buddy, plan on it”.
The third phone call came from my 5-year old granddaughter, Ellie:
“Grandpa, guess what?
“Daddy and I just caught a really big crappie.”
“Did you keep it?”
“No, we threw it back.”
“Did you have fun?’
“Yes Grandpa, I can’t wait to go fishing again.”
Those are phone calls that will melt an old angler’s heart. This separation is even worse knowing they want to come fish with us.
Thankfully their parents all fish. They are enjoying quality family time fishing on ponds and lakes during this pandemic.
My grandparents took me fishing, making this a “pass it on experience,” but for whom? I probably get more joy out of taking the kids fishing than they do.
Now I know why my grandfather sat and smoked his hand-rolled cigarettes made from Prince Albert tobacco while watching me fish. I didn’t understand it then.
He partly may have been reliving his youth while watching me. Worms, docks, fishing tackle and fish are the same, a never-changing joy. Fishing is and will always be a consistency in our lives.
My other grandchildren, Dani, Cole and Grady enjoy fishing too. The best of times is when all six grandchildren are fishing with us. Those are the days when I become a line untangle specialist, bait boy or the guy that takes fish off their hooks. I wouldn’t trade those moments for all the world’s wealth.
I fillet their fish and grandma fries up the delicacies that seldom are on the plate long enough to cool down before being devoured by our hungry grandchildren. My grandmother was a good “fish fryer” too.
Will these kids take their grandchildren fishing years from now? Will they remember us like I think about my grandparents? I hope so, because fishing is a healthy escape from a dark, complicated and sometimes dangerous world. Our youth have never needed fishing more.
Do you want to take your child fishing? Here are some tips:
• Locate good crappie or bluegill water and know the best techniques for catching either species.
• Some kids don’t want to touch a worm or minnow. This will change with experience.
• Children under 7 or 8 years old are best equipped with a simple spincast rod, reel, hook, line and sinker.
• An eager child will likely lose a fish or two by setting the hook too hard – they’ll learn. Let them land a fish, even if you have to set the hook and hand them the rod.
• Each child in your boat must wear a life jacket. Make sure the vest fits snuggly and comfortably.
• Choose your days well before taking that child fishing. Avoid windy, rainy or cold days. “Bluebird days” are ideal for the best childhood memories. Remember to take extra jackets for weather changes.
• Forcing children to stay out longer than their attention span allows is a good way to turn them off from fishing forever—even when the fish are biting. Allow time for snacks and potty breaks.
For mentally and physically challenged kids:
This special group loves to fish. Here are a few things to consider before taking them:
• Many that live in wheelchairs never sweat. Some paralyzed areas of the body don’t sweat and quadriplegics don’t sweat at all. Too much exposure to the sun can bring on severe dehydration and severe illness or even death. Keep this in mind when making your preparations.
• Mentally challenged individuals around water are another consideration. Many are excellent swimmers, but don’t count on it.
• Ball caps and sunblock are required to prevent sun damage. Sunblock is important but some can’t use it because of sensitive skin. Check with their doctor for special ointments.
• Make sure ramps to the lake and for boarding pontoons are secure and wide enough. The average wheelchair is between 30 to 36 inches. Pontoons must allow a wheelchair space to maneuver.
• Never use a seatbelt or harness that attaches the child to their wheelchair. A chair overboard will quickly sink to the bottom. A life jacket is necessary for the challenged swimmer or non-swimmer. Some attach a safety cord to the watercraft and challenged person.
I am living for the day when my grandchildren will come over and fish with Grandpa and Grandma. Let’s pray that will be soon.
– 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 email@example.com.