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Entries in kids (16)


Pay It Back, as Well as Forward; Take the Elderly Fishing Too


When I was 15, I would do anything for the chance to go fishing. That included taking my elderly neighbor, Mrs. Smith, with me.

Her daughter's family owned a farm with a pond, but no one had the time or interest to walk with her down to the water, help her set up her lawn chair, and then keep an eye on her as she fished with her Zebco for bluegill and bullheads.

Such a job, though, was right in my wheelhouse. The only real work was getting her to and from the pond. After that, all I had to do was check in from time to time to make sure that Mrs. Smith was okay as I walked the banks, casting for bass.

That was all I had to do. But, as it turned out, that wasn't all I did. Bullheads aren't easy to get off the hook, especially when they swallow it. And bluegill will steal the bait in a hurry, if you just let it dangle instead of threading it on. In other words, by our second trip, I was spending nearly as much time helping Mrs. Smith have a good time as I was fishing. I certainly hadn't planned for that. I was the kid. People were supposed to take me fishing, not the other way around.

Yet I don't think that I could have enjoyed our trips together more if I had caught a 5-pound bass on every trip. It was my first experience with giving back, and it felt really good.

In the years since, I've shared my passion with many more. Until I received a note recently from a friend in Tennessee, however, I didn't realize that I had tunnel vision. I had forgotten about that summer when I was 15. For me, sharing fishing had been all about kids, about instilling a love for the sport in the next generation.

But what about all those Mrs. Smiths out there who would love to go fishing but can't without our help? And what are we missing out on when we don't pay it back, as well as forward?

Here's what:

This past fall, my friend and his wife helped take Granny, Dot, and other residents at an assisted-living facility fishing for panfish at a dock on J. Percy Priest Lake.

The bite was slow, my friend said, but finally someone caught a small bluegill and "everyone got excited."

Seeing the joy derived from one little fish, my friend had an idea. "I told Dot that I was going to put some fresh bait on and handed her the pole with the bream," he recalled. "But she did not know the bream was on the hook.

"A few seconds later, the float started moving and Dot got excited, hollering that she had caught one. Words cannot describe how excited she really was. After getting her calmed down and swapping poles with her, I passed the little bream down to my wife and she pulled the same trick on Granny.

"After that, we released it. If only this little bream knew who much it had given to three ladies and also the helpers."

And it gets better.

Later during a Halloween party at the assisted-living facility, my friend talked with Dot about the outing at Percy Priest. "Dot told me how much she had enjoyed that fishing trip," my friend explained, adding that she said the bluegill was the largest she had ever caught.

And when he asked her how big, she said, "Almost 5 pounds."

He also learned that she had been telling all who would listen about her "big fish."

"You cannot imagine the good feeling inside after that trip with these elderly folks," my friend said. "One of the ladies is at a very low point now and may not be with us long.        

"We often do not appreciate what we have until something like this slaps us in the face. I am just proud that my wife and I are able to assist in some small way to make their remaining days just a little brighter."

By all means, we should keep taking kids fishing. In fact, we should do more of it. But also we shouldn't forget Dot, Granny, and Mrs. Smith. We should  spend some time with those who love the sport just as much as we do but can no longer enjoy it without a little assistance.    

(This article appeared originally in B.A.S.S. Times.)


What You Should Know About Taking Kids Fishing

First, and foremost,  the primary goal for a young child going fishing is to have fun--- not catch fish. Some adults have trouble remembering that.

Take them to a pond, lake, or small stream where the panfish are plentiful, and fish with live bait and the simplest of gear, such as a cane pole or spincast outfit. Also take a bucket or two, and maybe some jars with holes in their lids. Don’t try to fish yourself. If you do, you’ll just get frustrated. Your full attention should be on being a teacher.

Remember that most every child will want to keep the first few fish that he or she catches. It’s natural, perhaps that first awakening of the hunter-gatherer imperative that is a part of our species. If the fish aren’t biting, that same instinct will kick in when the child turns attention to catching frogs or crawdads.

Before you respond to a plea to keep the catch, start a conversation about its color, size, beauty, and/or uniqueness. Point out a frog’s webbed feet and its big, flat ears on the sides of its head. Spread a sunfish’s dorsal fin and explain its spines. Hold your hands up vertically by the sides of your face and wave them back and forth as if you are a fishing breathing through gills. It’s okay to be silly. Actually, it’s better to be silly.

Suggest placing the critter in a bucket or jar, without agreeing to take it home. Usually, that will be enough. By the time that you are ready to leave, the novelty will have passed, and you can turn loose the catch without protest. I’d suggest doing so with a little ceremony, maybe waving goodbye as the fish swims or the frog hops away.

If you meet with resistance, explain that the animal will die if taken away from its natural home. Most kids don’t think about that until it is explained to them.

When the time is right, too, keep some of those fish and teach kids how to clean them.

Above all, though, take them fishing.

From Fish, Frogs, and Fireflies: Growing Up With Nature.


For the Future of Fishing . . . 

Support these great volunteer organizations that teach about conservation and stewardship and share our love of fishing with kids, families, and those with special needs.

You also can find Kids First Cast, Inc., an Idaho-based organization,  and Fishing's Future, a Texas-based organization, on Facebook.



Kids First Cast Keeps Fishing Tradition Alive for Next Generation

This lucky young angler caught a 3.4-pound bass on his first cast at the recent fishing derby for children of military parents sponsored by Kids First Cast, Inc. (KFC), out of Nampa, Idaho.

Thirty-six youngsters whose parents were recently deployed from an Air National Guard unit in Boise participated. "One kid caught 14 bluegills and was tickled to death," said Howard Davis, executive director of KFC. "Overall the kids had a blast."

Mostly in anonymity, Davis, owner of Howard's Tackle Shoppe, has been taking kids fishing for 25 years or more. But with encouragement from Dyann Aspiazu, who promised to handled the red tape, Howard and others formed KFC as a non-profit in early 2012. Now they take thousands of kids fishing annually.

The organization is most noted for Davis' "bass-mobile," which carries equipment and tackle. More than 100 rods and reels are maintained for events, but donated rods and reels are cleaned up and given to kids to keep. And Davis always is looking for more. If you'd like to donate tackle, send it to Howard's Tackle Shoppe at 1707 Garrity Blvd., Nampa, Idaho 83687.

We need more volunteer organizations like this if we are to keep passing on the passion and pleasure of recreational fishing to future generations. Take a kid fishing and you'll discover that you get just as much enjoyment out of watching him or her catch fish as you would if you were catching them yourself.  Or, if you're like Davis, even more.


Millions of Kids Want You to Take Them Fishing

Most who fish started as children younger than 12. That's confirmed by a "2015 Special Report on Fishing" from the Recreational Boating and Fishing Foundation that pegs the number at "more than 85 percent."

More often than not, a parent, grandparent, or some other relative took them, not once but regularly. They developed passion for the sport because it was fun, as well as a challenge. It was  a connection to a mysterious underwater world inhabited by wondrous creatures. But they also embraced it because they shared those experiences with loved ones and, over time,  wonderful memories accumulated.

Of course, there are exceptions, and I am one of them. No one in my family fished. But at age 8, I went with my Cub Scouts pack on outing to a farm pond. I didn't catch a fish, but I was hooked for life. Two years later, we moved to a subdivision near a small lake, and the first thing on my wish list that Christmas was a rod-and-reel set that I saw in a comic book ad. I can't help but wonder, though, if  I would have found my way to fishing if we had not made that move. And what about other kids on other Cubs Scouts trips who never had a second opportunity to wet a line?

On the other hand, I made it a point to take my nieces fishing when they were young, yet none of them have much interest in the sport today. Either we embrace the sport, or we don't, for a myriad of reasons. But the more opportunities that we provide for participation, the better the future of fishing will be for all of us. As the study suggests, starting when kids are young is the best strategy. But we're also finding other ways, including high school and college fishing programs, such as those sponsored by B.A.S.S., and how-to classes, such as the Discover Nature series offered by the Missouri Department of Conservation. These activities benefit not just children who grew up fishing with family but those like me, who hunger for mentors to fish with them and share their knowledge of the sport.

And I'm not just saying that. The report reveals that 4.3 million kids want to try fishing.

Trevor Lo, meanwhile, is someone who learned young from his father, but was hungry for more. "I started competitively fishing local tournaments around the age of 14. I got involved in a local tournament trail hosted by other Hmong fishermen."

Later, he joined the University of Minnesota bass fishing team "in hopes of learning more about fishing different parts of the country, as well as seeing how I could do against other fishermen around my age."

Laura Ann Foshee

And it's not just boys who want more opportunities to fish either. The study reveals that half of first-time anglers are female, which is not a surprise to Laura Ann Foshee or Allyson Marcel.

Foshee helped start the Gardendale Rockets Bass Fishing Club in Georgia after seeing a high school competition at Smith Lake. "We had 60 people to show up at our first information meeting and ended up with a team of 18 anglers," said the only female member of the Bassmaster High School All-America Fishing Team.

"I love the challenge and the rush I get when I hook into a bass," she said. "In fishing, you are constantly trying to figure out the ever-changing patterns of the fish and learn new lakes, seasons, and techniques."

Thanks to her father, Marcel started fishing as soon as she was old enough "to hold a pole," and she was a charter member of the Nicholls State University's bass fishing team in Louisiana.

"I just love being on the water," she said. "There's no place I would rather be.

"Usually I fish with my Dad, brother, or boyfriend so not only am I doing something I love, but I'm doing it with someone I love."

And what do young anglers say is the best way to grow the sport?

"I would encourage parents to take their children fishing, as well as educate them in regards to wildlife and the outdoors," said Lo, who also urged students to join fishing clubs.

Foshee added, "When it comes to girls getting into fishing, I think the biggest obstacle isn't physical strength . . . but a perception that fishing is a boys sport . . . I can't tell you how much of an inspiration it is to see female anglers like Trait Crist catching the big bass in the Open and Allyson Marcel win the College National Championship. My dream is to be the first to win the Bassmaster Classic!"

(This column appeared originally in B.A.S.S. Times.)