Taking Kids Fishing Can Teach Even the Most Experienced Angler a Thing or 2

August 30th, 2011  |  Published in Boston Harbor, Fishing Stories

I am a true advocate when it comes to “sharing” fishing knowledge and experiences with those who truly want to learn about the sport. There is a very special group of individuals that hold a soft-spot in my heart when it comes to this. All they have to do is walk towards me on the dock or beach with a fishing rod and tackle box tucked underneath their little arms and a smile on their face, and I will begin spewing fishing tips, tricks and spots without them even saying hello to me. These are the little kids and future anglers of America that are just getting into fishing and learning about the sport. I’m not sure if it’s because they remind me of myself. (Not because I wear juniors size Grundens or weigh the same as a 12 year old boy either!)

I mean after all, it was only four years ago that I was that impressionable sponge walking down the dock with a huge grin of anticipation for my day out on the water. I hung on every word spoken and watched every fisherman and angler while recording it in my memory bank to mimic later and see if I could repeat their motions and actions. That is the great thing about kids and sometimes their downfall. They are uber impressionable and always LISTENING. They watch your every move and can mimic them to perfection. By the end of the day, they become your mini-me. It is adorable unless you drop them off with their parents and they begin swearing like a green horn on the Deadliest Catch.

We introduced our nephew to fishing last year. I don’t have any children, but I know if I had a son, he would be identical to my nephew. My nephew is the spitting image of my husband. He is definitely his mini-me. Fishing is the ONLY sport that he continuously asks to participate in. He’ll do anything and is good at anything that he tries, but he always asks his parents if he can go fishing with us. He is only 8 years old, so when he brought his daily planner to a family dinner to book his next fishing trip with us, I almost fell over. This little guy meant business. We took him out earlier in the summer flounder fishing and he caught a State qualifying tournament flounder, a striped bass, mackerel and sculpin. Basically, each time we have taken him out, we’ve put him on fish. Let me be even more specific, we’ve put him on exactly what he asked to catch. This kid only knows “catching”. He has not been introduced yet to “fishing”.

There is a big difference in Fishing vs. Catching. As we all know, fishing does not always equate to catching. With fishing comes disappointment and heartache. I give Charter Boats my utmost respect. It’s very difficult to catch what an angler asks for every time. No matter what the age or gender, if you’re looking at your fishing guest’s face filled with excitement and anticipation….all you see is pressure. The sweat begins to bead up on your face and your heart rate begins to increase. You gotta produce and you gotta produce big. They’ve been dreaming about their big day for days and have told all their friends they’re gonna catch a huge fish. You never want to be the one to dash that dream. We’ve been asked a number of times if we do charters. I’ll never say never on this one. To-date, we’ve only taken out friends and family and thankfully always produced. But at the end of each trip, we always say we’ll never do charters. Too much pressure!

Now imagine taking out an 8 year old who only knows catching and catching decent sized fish. Knowing how the bass fishing has been in Boston Harbor, I began my damage control early.

“Now you know your Aunt and Uncle don’t always catch, right?”

“Sometimes the fish just aren’t feeding.”

“The water has been really warm.”

I was pulling all the reasons out of why we may not catch. The previous days of fishing were very hard. This was not going to be like his previous trips and we knew it. Well we were right!

First spot we dropped anchor and began to chum. We taught him all about chumming and chunking. You could see the wheels turning and he began to recite EXACTLY everything we explained to him. The sponge was soaking it all in. 30 minutes went by and no fish. We pulled anchor and went out to deeper water. Because the water temps were high, the fish must be deeper. We found our second spot and anchored.

Our nephew began to chum. He said “I have a good feeling about this spot”. My husband and I looked at each other. Silently we both knew what the other was thinking. We’re screwed. We had never fished this spot and didn’t know if it was going to produce. Logically it should. Structure, water temperature, tide and current all pointed to our nephew’s prediction. You could hear the doubt in my Captain’s voice and tone. Meanwhile our nephew was befriending a bird with a broken wing by our boat. He began to feed it our chum and talk to it. We were chumming heavily, so the feeding of his new pet wouldn’t interfere with our feverish attempt at catching the little man a bass. If they were anywhere in the vicinity, we would catch em’. When it was time to swap out the chunks, we had him reel in the lines. First one he picked up, he began to say that he had a big one! Oh, the forever optimist. He had a big one alright. The biggest of them all….the ocean bottom.

The next reel in, he had a Starfish hitch-hiking on it. The oohs and aahs of that catch lasted 10 minutes. He said “Uncle I caught a fish. Star fish. It has the word fish in it”. Then he went back to feeding the seagull. After another starfish catch, we moved to our last spot. Time and tide was running out. After we anchored, he began to try and locate his pet seagull. He then said it again…”I have a good feeling about this spot”. Meanwhile, Captain and First Mate were scratching our heads and praying for a freaking fish. Any fish. Any size. Let the boy reel in something other than the ocean floor and a Cape Cod coffee table decorative item. Let’s do this!

Captain was working hard on the other side of the boat humming, hawing and casting. I decided to eat a sandwich to relieve one pain I had. Then our nephew says “What a beautiful day”. I was taken back and replied with a huge grin saying “You’re absolutely right. It doesn’t get much better than this”. It clicked. He didn’t care if he caught a fish. He just wanted to GO FISHING. He wanted to be out on the water, enjoying the day, feeding the pet seagulls, the star fish and being with his Aunt and Uncle. We were the ones putting the pressure on ourselves. We not once took the time to look around us and take in the experience.  The sunshine, lake-like conditions, and hilarious phrases coming out of our 8 year old-going on 40 year old nephew’s mouth. We tend to get into our competitive and perfection mode when we take others out fishing. When in reality, catching a fish is a bonus. Spending time with our friends and family is what it’s all about. After all, we’re not a charter. The funny thing is, we said we wouldn’t do charters because of this pressure, but mentally we are acting like a charter. A wave of happiness came over me, and just then the line went off. Coincidence? I’d like to believe otherwise.

Our nephew got to reel in a fish. He brought it to the boat all by himself. He caught himself a 32 inch Bluefish. He was ecstatic. He drove us back to the dock, letting the Captain relax a little and have his turn taking it all in. We were out there to teach our nephew how to fish. He did learn a new method of fishing, but he also taught us one of life’s most important lessons….find the good in each experience. It’s there, you just have to have your eyes open and seep it in like a sponge!

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