Encourage the young people around you to fish

The Examiner
Take the opportunity to introduce young children to possibly a lifetime of fishing.

This column is dedicated to my older readers, or in other words people my age. By now you may have noticed that time goes quickly. You can bet that soon warm spring days will quickly arrive and pond or lake banks will call out to you.

I remember first-time fishing at 3 or 4 years old with my great-grandparents. They fished our farm ponds and picked me up in their Ford Model A, the only car they ever owned. Then after a bumpy ride to the pond, Grandpa would cast out freshly dug worms hooked on Mustad hooks taken from a round steel can with his trusty Sears and Roebuck baitcasting reel and steel rod – purchased in the early 1950s and Ted Williams approved. He sometimes used small nuts or bolts as weight, cheaper than buying lead versions.

Kenneth L. Kieser

Great-grandma spread out an old quilt and sat on the bank holding a cane pole with hopes of outfishing Great-grandpa, she occasionally did. I sat by her with my smaller cane pole, watching my bobber and eating her Lifesavers. Green and red were my favorites.

Later my grandpa on mom’s side took me catfishing. I was about 10 and had graduated to a Zebco 202 spincast reel with matching rod. We caught a lot of bullheads in those days and later grandma fried them to a golden brown. Absolutely delicious.

I am 67 years old while writing this and still remember those golden days with my grandparents. Few times mean more to me. No doubt these early trips are partly why I’m an outdoor communicator.

Do you take your grandchildren, nieces and nephews or friends of the family children fishing? I do, and here’s why. We never knew pressure like our modern-day children. This is a faster world with social media, peer pressure and life-threatening disease circling the globe. Kids wear

masks to school – if they even go to school – while others sit in front of a computer attempting home learning. We still are involved in wars, and there is a lot of social unrest on our planet. Kids need a break from all of this, and the good, clean outdoor experience is a healthy place to unwind.

Do you remember good and bad things from your youth? Children are influenced early by good and bad experiences. I remember my most embarrassing moments from over six decades ago and some of the good times too.

How to make kids want to try fishing is a well discussed topic. Some say just take them while others wait for the child to ask if they can go. I have a different method.

I bought all of my grandchildren spincast rods and reels in the winter. Then we had casting practice in our backyard. I set out buckets at five, 10 and 20 yards with numbers on each. Five is a bluegill, 10 is a crappie and 20 is a huge largemouth bass, just to make it more interesting. Then we made a game of keeping score on targets hit. The plastic plug without hooks had to drop in the bucket. My children and grandchildren learned to cast with accuracy before we started fishing.

When spring rolled around, I scouted around for a crappie spawn or a big school of bluegill before our trip. That way the kids caught fish instead of being bored looking for fish. That would come later when they were older and more experienced anglers.

Starting with panfish like crappie or bluegill gave them a chance to learn how and when to set their hook. They, of course, missed a lot, but eventually they learned their technique and fish were hooked.

One of my younger grandsons is aggressive in sports. So when he hooked his first fish, a series of reeling too fast and jerking back on the rod started. I stopped his aggressive maneuvers and explained how drag systems work in a reel combined with line stretch and a bending rod. All

of this takes a big fish’s energy away. Explaining when he was fighting the fish made it easy to understand.

Finally, we have seminars on how to cut up fish for the skillet. I don’t clean fish or game in front of my younger kids. I wait until they are slightly older and able to see blood and guts without being grossed out. Some kids are never ready.

By now some of you are thinking that’s not how my grandson or granddaughter would react to a certain scenario, and that is an important point. You can’t generalize children. All are different. Most react differently to the experience.

So why should you take your grandchildren fishing? Because they need this positive experience.

Just imagine 50 or 60 years from now when your grandchildren are adults taking their kids or perhaps grandchildren fishing. They will fondly remember you!

Kenneth Kieser writes this column for The Examiner. Reach him at kieserkenneth@gmail,com.