REALITY CHECK: Fishing with a kid…if you have one, do it

Reality Check | Mike Taylor

Going fishing with a kid.

This is not the same thing as “going fishing.”

The latter evokes memories of quiet afternoons trolling a placid lake, long casts and stoical waits for the bobber’s tremulous shudder, somnambulant dragonflies flitting between gently waving cattails while overhead, fleecy cumulous clouds skitter across a wide, cerulean sky.

Fishing with a kid, on the other hand, is more like a nightmare ride atop an aged and poorly-maintained roller coaster.

I’m speaking from experience here. For over a decade, I drowned worms two or three times a week with my stepson, James. We started when he was four or five and didn’t stop until he turned 15 and was ever after too cool to hang out with me.

But for those 10 years, if I went fishing, James was in the boat with me.

Don’t get me wrong, I love James and I loved taking him fishing. It was rarely, however, a relaxing experience.

The problem is, being in a boat with a kid — especially a younger kid — is a lot like being in a small kennel with a rabid wiener dog; you just never know what he’s going to do, but you can surmise it will most likely not be good.

When I first started taking James out onto Tamarack Lake — we lived in Lakeview, right across the street from that estimable body of weedy water — he knew nothing about fishing, boats, lakes, fish, bait, rods, reels, sinkers or bobbers. The very first thing he did, once we were in the middle of the lake, was to stand up.

Now, I imagine standing up is just fine on the deck of the Queen Mary, but on the Tipster (the name I gave my tiny, aluminum johnny boat) it was an invitation to an unplanned swim. Which we did, all the way back to shore.

But James was only five and you can’t be upset with a five-year-old for acting like a five-year-old. We dumped the water out of the boat and tried again.

A half hour later, I was trying to pull a hook from my left earlobe. See, that’s another thing about kids, their casting skills take time to develop and meanwhile, they’re just as likely to hook something on land (or in the boat) as they are an actual fish. Far more likely, in fact.

I don’t know if it was my residual earlobe blood on James’ hook or just cruel fate, but as soon as he finally managed to get his lure in the water, he started catching fish. His first was a nice sized bluegill.

“Good job, buddy!” I enthused, always the supportive parent. Then he landed a bass; a keeper and bigger than anything I had previously pulled out of Tamarack.

“Uh, wow! Way to go,” I said, taking the fish off the hook for him since it was too big for James to get his little, five-year-old fingers around.
Two minutes later, he was reeling in another prize gill.

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