Teaching Kids to Fish

I have been teaching kids to fish for years. I love to see the look on a kids face when he or she catches their first fish on their own. The moment is priceless.

I go fishing quite a bit and along with catching fish comes the cleaning of the fish. My wife and daughter love fishing for blue gills because they’re easily caught and seem to bite all day long. When we get back to shore, I get to clean them while the girls get dinner ready. This cleaning period can take from 20 minutes to over 3 hours depending on how many of the little buggers we catch at the time.

There are quite a few times while at the fish cleaning house, that I get questioned on how many fish we caught, what kind of fish am I cleaning, what did I use and where did I catch them. This question and answer period also goes into how to clean them, how to tie a good knot, how to cast, what’s the best bait, etc,.

My friend Pat that stays at the same campground on the Chippewa Flowage as I do, asked me why I don’t just teach kids how to fish. He says I have a great speaking voice and that young people really listen when I talk. I thought about it and decided it was a good idea. I contacted the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources about any classes they had. I wound up taking a class that shows how to instruct kids in a classroom setting. Teaching them not only the basics of fishing (tying knots, fish ID, how to cast etc), but how the things they do directly reflect the outcome of the natural resources such as littering, catch and release, shore line erosion and the list goes on and on. Each instructor needs to adjust the criteria depending on the maturity of the kids.

I was hooked ! ( no pun intended) (ok- it was ) I was given my license to teach the class from the DNR and was on my way. My first class was held locally. I had twenty-two students of about ten years old. The DNR sent instructional materials that the kids can take home with them. This included fish ID cards, coloring books, posters, stickers and a few other items. The kids did pretty good at the knot tying and putting on bobbers.

When the question and answer period came, I was at a loss for some of the questions. The DNR hadn’t prepared me for what I was going to hear. I don’t know how they could have. Some of the questions were as follows: (and I’m not kidding)

How often do you shave? Did you shave your head or are you bald by accident? How tall are you? My dad’s taller ! When are we getting the ice cream you promised us? Why do you have hair in your nose and ears? Does your wife like the fish smell on your hands or do have to wash before dinner like my dad does? I have a two part question? Can you show us how to tie knots again (yes, finally a question I can answer !) and then can we have the ice cream you promised?

Apparently the kids showed up for stickers and ice cream. The little boy named Robert (I knew his name because his mother standing in the back kept saying “Robert, that wasn’t very nice ! Robert, will you behave ! Robert this and Robert that !) was the student that was interested most in my body hair and how tall I was. Apparently every physical feature that God gave me wasn’t as good as his fathers. (At least my child never ate her own boogers or the worms we had for bait like “Robert” did most of the day.)

Sunshine, (like her parents aren’t yuppies !) one of the little girls in our class, decided that she was hot and lifted her sun dress with pretty flowers on it, up over her head several times. She then said how she thought “boys are yucky and so were fish”, but she had to agree with yucky Robert that she thought it was time for ice cream.

Now that I’m am trying to mold young minds, I can see where real school teachers may be concerned with the students they teach. Are these kids learning anything or was I just a babysitter for a two hour period while the parents sat at the resort bar taking a break from their offspring? I remember immediately thinking that with Roberts nose picking qualities and concern for nothing relevant, is destined to become Governor of our fine state one day and that Sunshine, with her disappearing clothes trick, can be an intern in any number of different offices in Washington D.C.

That first class was the longest two hours that I can remember. I did learn something from it though. I learned to trim all hairs that may make a child question my grooming habits. I learned not to promise ice cream before the class. I learned that nose picking from a group of ten year olds is to be one of their favorite things to do and to have plenty of tissues handy for the secretive wiping on the underside of picnic tables. I’ve learned that mineral spirits can remove stickers from most surfaces found in a campground when used in large quantities and I’ve learned that I will continue to teach kids as long as they want to learn.

I hope that some of you take the time to teach kids how to fish. I don’t want to be the only one peeling fish stickers off of $40,000 trailers or making sure that our future leaders don’t wipe the contents of their noses on tables or other Governors. (Wouldn’t Robert look cute picking his nose on the dollar bill in fifty years !)

Take a kid fishing !