Teaching My Son To Fish
One of the big reasons I got into learning how to fish is that it is something that I wanted to teach my kids to do. I grew up in Southern Ontario where generations of my family have lived and farmed. They were hunters and anglers and many had the skills to live off the land. I already knew how to forage for food and had begun teaching my children how to identify edible plants. I’d taken them berry picking and we’d gathered wild nuts in the fall. So the next step was to teach them how to catch fish.
My children were 3 and 5 at the time I started learning and both expressed an interest. But it was my eldest son who really got bit by the fishing bug. Even now, my youngest just doesn’t have the patience or attention span for it. I bought them both cartoon character fishing rods and took them to the beach so they could learn to cast and reel. (This is also when I was learning to bait hooks….gardening gloves and all) Without fail, there were lots of snarls and snags and almost right away one of them hooked me in the back of the leg. There were tears and tantrums and howls…..but eventually I settled down and got the hook out. All three of us learned a lot that day.
Our town holds an annual Perch Derby and I entered all three of us in it, Adults can only enter perch in the derby but kids can enter anything they catch to win a prize. We spent many mornings on the pier trying so hard to catch an elusive perch. Then one morning, my 5 year old reeled in his line and, there, hanging from his hook, was a fish. A small, ugly, horrible little Round Goby. But it had fins and it swims so he could enter it in the derby. It was one my proudest moments as a mother. My boy was so happy he nearly cried as well. And since Gobies are an invasive species and can’t be released into the lake, he couldn’t wait to stomp on it either.
That summer the two of us worked our way up from Gobies to Pumpkinseed and Rock Bass on my inlaw’s lake up north. I even managed a nice sized Small Mouth Bass one evening and the pride shining from my boy’s eyes when he saw that fish has made the memory stand out crystal clear for me.
The following spring we entered in the Perch Derby again and this time my own skills had vastly improved from the previous year and I had some decent sized fish under my belt, as well as having gotten into Steelheading. So my confidence soared and I had a lot more to teach my boy. First thing was teaching him to bait his own hook. He had no qualms about grabbing a minnow so I showed him how to insert the hook behind the dorsal fin. It took him a few tries, and the minnow was very very dead when he was done, but he did it!
After that came lessons on catching minnows. At that time of year the lake is teeming with shiners near shore so I showed him how to hold the rope and toss the umbrella net out and haul it back in like a scoop. He couldn’t wait to try. I made sure to emphasize that he could not let go of the rope or we would lose the net. He set to work, but due to his height, the setup worked more like a dip net. Luckily for him, there were so many minnows, it didn’t matter. He was still catching them. He worked that net all up and down the dock, proudly bringing me small handfuls of minnows to put in our bucket. He was having the time of his life until I heard a cry. I looked and saw no net, and no rope and one distraught boy. I asked “what happened? I told you not to let go of the rope” He tearfully replied “I didn’t let go…..I just forgot to hold on!”. Needless to say, that net is now a part of the aquatic structure of the lake. There was no way I could reach it and I hadn’t thought to put a floating rope on it. Lesson learned by all.
That derby, my son and I both got to enter a perch on the same day. He caught his very own perch on a pickerel rig that he had baited all by himself. Again, I was so proud of him and more importantly, he was very very proud of himself.
Mama Perch and Baby Perch
That summer we again went bass fishing on the northern lake and this time my son was eager to try lures and Senko worms. I took him to a bait and tackle shop and had him pick out what he wanted to try. He selected some glittery senko’s and and a top water frog lure. I showed him how to wacky rig the senko and he spent hours on the dock casting and retrieving. And he caught fish!! Lots of little smallies and few small largies as well. One evening he tossed out the top water frog lure and almost immediately we heard a “SMACK” and a large mouth bass had sucked it up. My boy landed that 1.5 lb fish with no problem at all and only a tiny bit of coaching from me. What a moment!! Even his non angling father was extremely impressed.
So far, the only thing I can’t get him to try is hooking his own worms. He’ll put on minnows and unhook his fish but he won’t touch a worm or grub. But I’m sure that will come with time. Soon another spring will be upon us, and another run of perch will be coming to shore. I can’t wait to get my boy down to the water front and make some more memories with him.
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