Hopefully we can all find time to share the joys of fishing with a younger person. Kids are out of school now and the fish are biting. There’s really no valid excuse for not repaying the kindness somebody special showed each of us when they introduced us to fishing. And Alabama abounds with opportunities for quality fishing experiences tailor-made for adults to share with kids. Community fishing events created especially for this purpose are underway in over 50 towns and cities across the state. There are state public fishing lakes in 20 counties. For a listing of both and more details go to OutdoorAlabama.com or contact any Wildlife and Freshwater Fisheries office.
I’ve never met a child, regardless of their upbringing, who didn’t delight in pulling a fish from the water. As humans, we all come pre-wired that way. It’s a very primal part of our psyche, probably rooted in fishing for subsistence. Most of us vividly remember the first fish we caught, where we were and who helped us catch it. Mine was a hand-size bluegill, and I vividly recall the exact spot I was standing in even though it happened over 50 years ago. How many other things can we remember with such clarity after so many years?
Fishing together presents the opportunity to connect with a child in a powerful way. "Teachable moments" abound, and lessons are easily learned about self-restraint, patience and self-discipline. And the rewards are immediate and memorable.
The very best way to teach a youngster to fish requires only a cane pole, crickets or worms, and the ever-willing-to-cooperate bluegill. The simplicity of this approach lends itself to children, and the direct connection between angler and fish provided by a cane pole is sure to bring squeals of excitement. You do remember how that feels, don’t you? Those unmistakable throbbing, tight circles bluegill cut on the end of a line are exactly the same throbbing, tight circles generation after generation of anglers have experienced.
Make keeping some fish to eat part of the experience. Self-sufficiency is a valuable commodity in this day and age, and it is more important than ever for young people to understand that food does not originate at the grocery store. Catch and release has its place, but if Troy Hall, who helped me catch that first bluegill 51 years ago, had tried to put my fish back in the water we would have had one helluva fight.
Bank fishing is generally best for beginners, but a boat may lend itself to certain situations. Just remember that what may be a quality experience to us as adults may be punishing to a child.
A few nice fish, caught very simply, as part of a couple-hour excursion will be far more warmly received than an all-day affair with lots of gear and after a limit of fish.
Very often, less is more.
Corky Pugh is the executive director of the Hunting Heritage Foundation.