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Entries in youth fishing (26)


The Power of Fishing As A Lesson in Life 

Photo from City of Oswego, NY, website

(Excerpt from "The Fishing Triangle" in Fish, Frogs, and Fireflies: Growing Up With Nature. Owner of National Bass Guide Service, author Steve Chaconas catches bass and snakeheads on the Potomac River and is a fishing friend of mine.)

My intention is to teach as much as possible in the allotted time to allow the parent to reinforce on their own outings. Where things get interesting is when the kids return, year after year. I see a little of me in them, noting their focus, understanding, and passion for what they are doing and how they have carried this over to other elements of their development.

When they don’t return, I wonder why.

Zev’s dad booked a trip with me about 15 years ago. He insisted his six-year-old was really into fishing. He also made it clear the trip was all about his son, not for him to fish. I was very happy to hear that, as often the kid is being dragged along so dad can go fishing.

I rigged Zev’s small spinning rod with a bobber and worm and handed it to him with a bit of instruction. He loaded that rod and released it, making a long and accurate cast. I was astonished and asked his dad about it. He said he could cast like a champ. I cut off live bait and tied on a weightless, artificial worm. Cast after cast, Zev hauled in three- to five-pound largemouth bass for the remainder of our trip. I was very confident I had a new regular client. Meanwhile, Dad shot video, with Zev excited about each cast and catch.

As we said our goodbyes back at the dock, I was certain that they would be back for another outing. Zev’s mother was amazed with the video and called me. She was even more excited than her son. They were eager to go out again!

Sadly, I never heard from them. That is until about 13 years later. I was giving a seminar at a Bass Pro Shops when a guy came up to me with his son who was more than six feet tall. Dad asked me if I recognized them. Honestly, I said no. He reintroduced me to Zev! Now a 19-year-old college freshman, Zev told me he watched the video of our trip over and over so many times his dad had to have it transferred to DVD before time took its toll on the tape.

I wanted to know why they never came back. Zev’s dad said they enjoyed that trip so much that he went out and bought a boat the next day. They have fished together nearly every weekend, including team tournaments, for several years. This floored me. From one four-hour trip, I changed the course of their relationship. Well, maybe I didn’t change it as much as I just gave it a nudge.

*           *          *           *

 . . . until kids are really ready, four hours is usually all I book.  One day, I received a call from a woman whose grandson was visiting. I explained my reluctance to take such a young child out on the boat, but she sold me on a trip after we agreed I would take him out until he wanted to go home.

There was no way he could cast, so I started fishing right at the launch area. With a drop shot, I explained the procedure to him. He took to this technique quickly. He caught three nice bass in an hour with grandma documenting the catches with a camera. I shot a few of them together for her as well.

Shortly after, he asked if we could go for a boat ride. I obliged, firing up my Yamaha to his delight. Once the Skeeter was on plane, he grinned from ear to ear. I told him to tap me on my leg if we were going too fast. Feeling nothing, we took a 20-minute ride, stopping a few times to take in Potomac River sights, including Fort Washington, Mount Vernon, Reagan National Airport, and the Washington Monument.

When I asked him what he wanted to do next, he said, “It’s been about an hour and a half. I think that will do it.” Grandma concurred and we returned to the marina. Kids will let you know, sometimes not so directly, when it’s time to go. Don’t argue.  Consider the outing a success!

Instruction to adults also can make a lasting impression. One client has been fishing with me for 20 years. During that time, he has bought a boat, dozens of rod and reel combos, and a boatload of tackle. His wife refers to me as Dr. Bassenstein, as I have created a fishing monster out of her husband. 

Some refer to fishing as a hobby, sport, or an addiction. I prefer to think of it as a lesson in life. It allows us to spend quality time in a quality environment, forgetting about everything else except the rod in hand.  It allows us to focus on something that, in the big picture, really isn’t that important. As far as being an addiction?  It’s only an addiction if you are trying to quit.


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.


Support These Groups That Keep Fishing Strong

Here's another great not-for-profit that helps keep our sport strong. It's based in Wisconsin.

"Our Mission Statement is simple: Grow the sport of fishing by educating and inspiring beginner and experienced anglers.  How will you learn more on fishing?  Through our seminars, which can be customized for your group, through tailored fishing experiences and from articles that appear on the website and through the video library we have.  Should you not find what you are looking for on the website,  contact us as we will help you out!"

Kids First Cast in Idaho and Fishing's Future in Texas are two others doing great work. Please help keep all three going by donating and/or volunteering.


Better Bass Fishing Is About More Than The Know-How That You Accumulate; It's About What You Pass On

With the remaining hot dogs consumed, we spread out our sleeping bags and relaxed, ready to watch the meteor showers that were predicted for after midnight.

We talked about bass fishing and building fires and other “guy things” until the first fiery arrow streaked across the sky. The wattage of the moon probably stole much of the light show from us. But we counted a dozen or so before Ursa the Devil Dog cuddled up to Jesse. He put his head next to hers and both slept the sleep of the innocent.

As I watched for more of nature’s fireworks, I thought about another child, decades before, and how lucky he was to know generous adults who made the time to take him fishing.

My father didn’t fish, but a co-worker of his did, and he took me frequently to a farm pond. One fall day, a 3-pound bass exploded under my Hula Popper, a moment frozen in time that still causes my heart to pound when I recall it.

And there were others: A neighbor took me fishing in a boat for the first time. A family friend invited me along on an overnight camping and fishing trip. I’ve been fishing thousands of times since then, but those generous acts still are as vivid in my mind as the day they happened. I feel the sun as it warms the orange lifejacket that I wore. I look down and see the purple worm with the propeller harness tied to the line on my Johnson spincast reel. I smell the coffee brewed over a fire and see the mist at sunrise on the tailwaters of Bagnell Dam.

I hope that Jesse will have the same type of memories of our trips when he is an adult. And, when he comes of age, I hope that he will share the sport that we both love with someone new.

You should do the same. Better bass fishing is about more than the know-how that you accumulate. It’s also about what you pass on.

Once upon a time, fathers did a good job of doing that. In a survey of anglers, 67 percent said that their fathers took them on their first fishing trips. But 87.8 percent of those respondents were age 35 or older. Of those under 35, just 12.2 percent said that they were taken by their fathers.

“If dad has a diminishing role in introducing new anglers today, and others don’t step in, how will fishing be passed to future generations? And how will those who miss out even know what they’ve missed?” asks the Recreational Boating and Fishing Foundation, which sponsors Anglers’ Legacy, an angler recruitment program.

Without participation, without a strong constituency, we will lose it all: funding for fisheries research and management; access to lakes, rivers and oceans; an innovative industry that constantly improves our boats, tackle, and equipment.

As my eyes grew heavy, the meteors faded as the eastern sky lightened and a hidden sun painted delicate clouds a soft rose. I slept, but only for a few minutes. The angler in me would not allow for more.

I woke Jesse in time for the topwater bite.

Excerpt from "Tonight and Tomorrow" in Better Bass Fishing, available at both Amazon and Barnes & Noble.


Help These Great Organizations Take More People Fishing

With the start of the "giving season" on Nov. 28, I hope that you will consider contributing--- money, products, and/or your time--- to the many great organizations devoted to taking people fishing, especially those that focus on the young, the old, and the disabled, as well as veterans.

Remember that the world would be a much better place if more people fished and you can help make that happen.

The following are three of my favorites:

This Idaho-based organization helps spread the word about the joys of fishing through its Bass-Mobile, piloted by founder Howard Davis.

"Taking kids fishing is more fun than I've ever had in my life," he said. "With kids you don't have to deal with politics or anything else. It's just fishing."

Fishing's Future is headquartered in Texas, with an emphasis on fish camps for families and the following objectives:

  • Reconnect kids to nature
  • Reconnect kids to family and strengthen family relationships
  • Teach Environmental Stewardship and Increase awareness for the protection, conservation and restoration of our Nation's aquatic natural resources
  • Increase participation in recreational angling

The C.A.S.T. for Kids Foundation is the country's largest charity, with a focus on children with special needs and military personnel.

"Through a joyful day of fishing, kids, their families, and community volunteers come together for an explosion of fun and inspiration. C.A.S.T. for Kids Foundation hosts annual fishing and boating events across America to fulfill our mission of providing populations with special needs the opportunity to enjoy a quality outdoor recreational experience fishing on the water."

You also can find these organizations on Facebook.

Kids First Cast, Inc.

Fishing's Future

C.A.S.T. for Kids