Teaching Kids How to Fish

I’ve discovered something incredibly important for myself related to fishing and why I fish. It’s probably perfect to come into this consciousness at this time in my life, full circle, as they say.

The best of fishing is a shared experience. Why, therefore, don't we teach others how to enjoy this very complete form of recreation where sustenance is found on all levels?

I am blessed to live on the water at Dover where I can watch the changing conditions of the Pend Oreille River. This water now has several game species in it, all feeding and available. Three varieties of trout: rainbow, cutthroat, and brown. It yields on occasion two kinds of char: dolly varden and mackinaw. It also contains both large mouth and small mouth bass in relative abundance. It has a relatively untapped abundance of small landlocked salmon we refer to as Kokanee. And it is showing itself to be a productive source of walleye (though that boom hasn’t arrived yet).

On the scrap side are large and relatively common pike minnows, tinch, suckers and complimenting them are occasional winter- and spring-caught mountain white fish and Lake Superior whitefish. The river has an abundance of perch, some bluegill, a lot of black crappie and a wide assortment of minnows.

In places, the main channel goes ninety feet deep, but the bays and bay-size eddies are for the most part in the 12 to 15 foot depth range. There are huge mud flats too where the bottom is a mix of sand, glacial silt and just plain mud, all giving a rich crop of aquatic weeds including a millfoil problem. What body of water isn’t plagued with invasive species.

But the fishery is currently alive, rebounding and quite productive; so we who live here simply accept these things and do our best to enjoy the water and the catching. But that’s not what I discovered, and my discovery wasn’t a sudden flash of insight. It was a gradual dawning of awareness that something was more important to me than just me catching fish.

Living where I live, I’ve had the great privilege of being visited by a number of families with kids in all age ranges. So over time, I found myself collecting and restoring “yard sale rods and reels” so that when you folks came for a visit, they’d have a rigging available, ready for use, with new line and a variety of gadgetry to bait and lure the fish in. Last year a troop of boys caught 34 perch off the end of my dock, filling a picnic basket with their catch. I taught them how to clean them, skin them and eat them. This year, they come back with eagerness and my shores frequently give up the sound of “I caught another one!” or “I got one! It’s a keeper!” (They are taught to release the fish that are too small for consumption, and sometimes a larger one depending on the child).

Here’s what I discovered: the joy it brings to me to see the beam of a young boy’s smile or the gleam in the eye of a girl who’s caught a fish she’s proud to show. I discovered that I enjoy more, seeing young people unfold with a new understanding and a connection to the water that will bring them a life-long appreciation for the outdoors and for food sources, where they are caught, how they are kept (if and when) and how they are prepared for eating.

This discovery has caused me to think back on my own life. I was raised on this same water about two miles from where I currently live. Several years ago when I nearly died in a timber-falling accident, I had to sit and ponder while I healed. I did a lot of reflection at that time, waiting hopefully as a fractured neck and broken back found their places again so I could get up and become active again. I pondered my childhood and the many fishing experiences i had.

Last year, I called up and took fishing the very man who first took me fishing now 60 years ago. We had a blast! It meant a lot to him that I would bother to do so. This year, I’ve made an appointment with his son, Larry, to fish again together like we did in high school. These are profoundly good memories.

So I’ve resolved that I have a new purpose for writing this blog. A new and better reason for writing about fishing and taking pictures that tell a story. I’m going to specialize on teaching fishing, especially to children. I’m going to teach adults how they can teach their children how to fish. It will include everything from how to set the drag properly and why to how season the fish you caught so that it tastes really good coming out of the fry pan.

That’s what this blog is now all about.

It’s better to teach another how to fish, how to catch them, dress them and prepare them for the table than to provide them with store-bought, packaged fish. It’s just as valid to teach them how to release a prize catch they don’t need to eat, or may not want to, than it is to let fish spoil. Some fish need to be released; some need to be kept, and if kept, eaten.