One of the best things we can do is pass on fishing, an outdoor recreation cultural activity to our children and grandchildren. It was a thrill recently to mentor my grandson George Dobmeier to catch his first fish.
It brought back treasured memories as my Grandpa Herman Beyer took me to Otter Tail County lakes like Rose, South Turtle, Olaf, Norway and Anne.
When taking kids fishing for the first time, it is best to keep it simple.
I was weaned on a Zebco 202 spincast reel and George was going to start with the same. Spincast reels are easy for young children to learn how to turn the twin handle.
Sometimes accommodations like a pink fishing reel for my daughter Brittany are needed. Kids may not like wood ticks, either so I would give Britt piggy back rides through tall, wood tick infested grass leading to points on Dead Colt Creek near Lisbon to catch crappies.
Involve children with all the aspects of fishing. Using live bait is about the best way to catch a fish. George and I collected a few worms and nightcrawlers the previous day digging around in soft garden dirt. There are few kids who don’t enjoy a squiggly worm slipping from their fingers.
We fished on a small pond near his home at The Woodlands, Texas. Safe shoreline fishing is another good choice. We shared the shoreline with a white cattle egret, also fishing with its long yellow legs stalking in shallow water.
Take time to show the details like threading that squirmy worm on a gold Eagle Claw hook. We used a traditional red and white bobber like we all grew up with. Will we ever tire of seeing a bobber sink under the surface? It is the same thrill for a young boy seeing it for the first time.
Experiencing success always helps so fishing for easily caught species, including sport fish like bass and panfish like sunfish works best.
George slowly reeled in his first fish, a 12” largemouth bass. He learned why it is called a largemouth when the jaws were opened wide. Every fish has unique characteristics that teach young people about the diversity and beauty of wildlife.
Ethics training starts at any age and he was shown how to softly release the bass in inches deep water amongst short cattails. Teach youths to do the right things even when nobody is around, a great life lesson.
We were lucky to quickly catch fish. Attention spans are short and we only fished a few minutes. The painted turtles swimming on the surface entertained us. George got a little help reeling in faster when the bait passed the turtles. Didn’t want to explain that one!
Always take time to snap pictures where you are fishing. Many of the memories are the backdrop of the lake, shoreline or nearby natural resource. Much better than a garage!
Fishing is a year-round sport and ice fishing is especially popular. Some of my best parenthood memories are ice fishing with my daughter Kayla for sunfish on Prairie Lake near Pelican Rapids. See simple, easily caught fish and using a bobber again. And she can tell her Texas friends that she can walk on water.
George’s first fish was caught on a catch-and-release pond but it is good to naturally catch your own fish for healthy meals. Cleaning fish will be for another day.
Like any recreation activity, keep it fun. Oftentimes, the most memorable experiences come simply from being outdoors and may not even be the purpose of the expedition. It could be a family of black-bellied whistling ducks swimming by.
Locally, parents and grandparents are encouraged to bring children to the Vince Herding Youth Fishing Derby in May, Dick Bell Catfish Tournament in June, Larry Brunkhorst Carp and Sucker Fishing Derby in August and Neil Heitkamp Ice Fishing Derby in February. All these Red River Area Sportsmen’s Club legends loved getting kids out fishing.
The Sportsmen’s Club has loaner fishing equipment year-round. Along with the Wahpeton Park Board, they have invested generously in Red River and Mooreton Pond fishing access.
For some of us, there can be nothing better than teaching a grandson to fish. It is a story that will be told during our living years and beyond.