Take a Kid Fishing
By Greg McCain
The word hooked has multiple meanings in fishing.
Fish are not the only things that get hooked. The concept of “getting hooked” applies to people also, and the idea particularly impacts children, many of whom experience the angling addiction from a very early age. Many parents recall the time when the fishing fever overtook their children.
Texas outdoorsman Todd Wagner remembers well the moment when his son got hooked. Fishing a tank or stock pond close to his home, Todd had taken his toddler son, Drake Reid, with him for a short outing. He captured the moment on video, including a couple of comments and actions typical of a child first asserting his or her independence.
“I still have Drake’s first video when he was two years old (fishing) a big ol’ 10-acre tank back behind the house,” said Todd, who first introduced Drake to the outdoors in a deer blind when he was five days old. “I pulled the Ranger up on the dam and threw a seven-inch Culprit worm out weedless, and I gave the pole to him. I went to the Ranger to tie something on my pole, and he started making these noises. I looked back at him and asked if he was hung up, and he said, ‘no, dada, fish.’
“I ran back down and tried to help him. He smacked my hand and said, ‘no, dada, my fish.’ It was probably a six-lb. largemouth and since that day he’s been hooked.”
The sentiment ranked as the prevailing theme when ACC Crappie Stix surveyed its users about favorite fishing moments involving their children. Responders to the post on the ACC Facebook page shared memorable anecdotes and pictures about their children (or grandchildren) getting hooked on fishing.
From Texas, Todd recounted his special memories with Drake, now six, and with five-year-old daughter Brynlee Hope, who recently caught a crappie over two lbs. on Belton Lake. But getting hooked on fishing and the outdoors is not just a Texas tradition.
Proud grandfather Sonny Gilchrist, of Villa Rica, GA, recounted a recent day when his granddaughter much preferred a fishing trip with him to a yearly holiday tradition often enjoyed by children.
“Like Easter weekend, she didn’t want to go hunt eggs,” Sonny said. “We were at my mother-in-law’s and there’s a family pond. She said, ‘Pop Pop, can we go fishing,’ and I said, ‘In your Easter dress?’ She said yes, so we went fishing.”
Sonny normally fishes Lake Wedowee in east-central Alabama, but the spontaneous Easter trip served as an example of just how much his granddaughter, six-year-old Presley Davison, loves fishing. He added that she has been fishing with him since she was two.
“At six years old, she can cast an open face (spinning reel) and she’s a great listener,” Sonny said. “We target crappie. When she was three, she caught her first one, about a 1 ½-lb. crappie on a jig at Wedowee.”
Illinois fisherman Miah, short for Jeremiah, Bolyard treasures similar memories with eight-year-old daughter Brixen. They fish lakes like Shelbyville, Clinton, and Decatur near their home in Elkhart, IL.
“I remember the first one she caught,” Miah said. “She was two, and we were fishing a little farm pond. It was a nice one too.”
Brixen also has her special thoughts about fishing and the memories created with her dad.
“I like to get out when it’s warm and feel the cool breeze,” she said. “It’s fun to fish with my dad.
“One special memory that I have is when I swung in a fish and hit my dad with it. We still laugh about that.”
Not all fishing memories occur on the water. Angler Nate Harris, of Sedalia, MO, said his five-year-old son Alister, who recently caught a 2.3-lb. crappie on Truman Lake, is so consumed with fishing that he can often be found practicing his casting in the driveway.
“We fish together as much as we can,” Nate said. “That boy wants to fish every day of his life. Even if we can’t go to the lake, he’ll get out in the driveway and cast away. Even when he was young, he would cast a pole like he was natural.”
Miah and Brixen have also developed an off-the-water complement to their fishing, one that contributes to their catches when they actually fish.
“He taught me how to tie jigs,” Brixen said, adding that her favorite color is a solid pink tie. “We like to do it together. I have my own stuff.”
Added Miah, “She’s gotten pretty good at it. She likes to create her own color combinations and see how well they work.”
Ultimately, the bonds formed in the outdoors bind old and young together. Many of the parents, in fact, relate similar stories from their youth.
“To her, it’s just fishing,” Sonny said. “For me, it’s a time to bond. There are a lot of life lessons when you are trapped in a boat with an adult. At the end of the day, she walks away with more skills than what she had, not just the fishing but the cleaning and other things. For her, it’s a great learning experience.”
For Todd, fishing, hunting, and camping with his children gives him an opportunity to share the wealth of the outdoors, something he did not get to experience with his father.
“My father died when I was a kid, so I didn’t get to go into the woods and hang out with him,” he said. “Back in school, I didn’t get to experience hunting and fishing with my dad like the other guys. I missed out on that. Anything I can do to share the outdoor experience with them, I’m going to do.
“There’s a whole lot more to life than pavement and TV. A lot of these new generation parents and kids don’t understand that. They weren’t lucky enough to be raised to experience the outdoors. It’s been my passion to share the outdoors with everyone and not just children, to show them what God has left us in the outdoors for us to use. I can pass it on to my kids, and they can pass it on to theirs.”
From east Tennessee, tournament angler, fishing guide, Wired for Crappie YouTuber, and parent Matt Xenos offered some excellent advice for introducing youths to the outdoors. One thing he suggests is quick trips, which cuts the boredom for young minds.
“Getting kids involved in the sport of crappie fishing starts and ends with fun,” he said. “It’s all about having fun with them. As anglers and as a tournament angler myself, I have to remind myself that it’s not all about catching fish. If they have fun while on the water they will want to return.
“I always make a trip to the corner store for a snack/drink run, treats if you will, candy, some chips and a Gatorade or soda. It’s about making them feel special. The addiction to fishing is made by fun days.
“A few fun times with dad or mom on the water, and they’re hooked.”