Baseball, hot dogs, and apple pie. American stuff. Things that are synonymous with our traditions and heritage. There are two other things I’d like to throw in there. Actually, they go hand and hand. That is the incomparable combo of kids and fishing. Sure, you could probably toss video games, Xbox and electronic devices in the modern, millennial mix of “all things growing up,” but I’m old school, slow, and a little bit in the way.

kids who went fishing and got muddy
Okay, so maybe they'll get a little bit messy - kids LOVE fishing!

When I was a child growing up, I had a bicycle, baseball bat and glove, and a fishing rod and reel. That’s about it, and I was happy to have that. My summer days were filled with long bike treks in search of bass, bluegills, catfish, carp, and any other species that would dare feast on my simple offerings of garden worms or the occasional doughball. There were a few highlights, then more lowlights. But it was always, always an adventure.

Today there are a lot of people, places, and things that pull at our children. Organized sports of all kinds, those previously mentioned video games, and many different facets of life and interests. Not to mention getting a foothold on today’s anti-social media platforms. Let’s face it: today’s kids are just growing up way too fast for any parent to enjoy.

My father quickly realized that my deep interest and passion for angling was something that could possibly keep me out of trouble and off the streets. Even back in the early 1960s there were concerns of delinquency. So, with very little fishing experience of his own, he fought the good fight and outfitted me and my older brother with fishing gear, tackle boxes, and a couple dozen nightcrawlers here and there. Catches were slim, but we did manage a few stringers of crappies along with the rare four- to five-pound bass — heroic events in our young angling lives.

In recent years, we have been taking our grand daughters along on some trips to ponds, creeks, or even Deep Creek Lake. Both six-year old Abby and nine-year old Elena “like” fishing. But when a few fish are caught, and the initial excitement has spiraled to a sit-and-wait scenario, then it’s time for nature observations. Elena can spot a deer or a soaring red-tail heading for a distant deadfall at 100 yards. Abby, on the other hand, digs digging in the mud with a sturdy stick she found along the shoreline. Both of them love to play with the leftover minnows in the bait bucket. Bugs, especially spiders, are of great interest. Chipmunks and squirrels are fun.

Remember, when you take your kids or grandkids fishing snacks are pretty important, as are refreshing drinks, Purell, and more snacks. Sometimes a small, folding chair comes in handy and maybe some of those “baby-wipe” thingies that work for a number of chores. But one thing that always seems to hold their attention, at least for a little while, is the view of a small red and white bobber, as it dances from the tug of a willing bluegill below.

take a kid fishing
The author with his very happy grand-daughter - and a big 'ol bass.

Yes, I’ll admit it… I have “bobbers-down syndrome,” had it for many years. To me, there is no known cure. Once you see the bobber disappear, you just have to satisfy that hypnotic urge and set the hook to see what’s on the other end. This all happened to me back when I was five years old. To this very day I haven’t been the same since. That was in 1957. (Yes, I am that old).

My son Matthew also got hooked at a young age. I think he was 10 when he caught a legal northern pike and paraded it to friends and family throughout the neighborhood. What a day, what an experience! We have since shared many angling adventures that ranged from bass to carp to big crappies to stripers and blue cats. Yes, he is that old.

Had I not been addicted to watching bobbers disappear I would have likely succumbed to other transgressions like weekend softball tournaments, October beer fests or even golf. But God planted me on a course of waters and woods and the things that go with them. No, we didn’t have Xbox, cell phones or anything like that when I was growing up. I’m glad we didn’t.

Unfortunately, the year 2020 has been like none other due to the global pandemic of Covid-19. With so many events and pastimes of our lives being shut down, it may just be the year that you take your children to that isolated farm-pond for those cooperative bluegills and bass that so eagerly gulp down a garden worm. Some of those hand-sized bluegills will make a great meal for the family. Watching bobbers disappear, cleaning a batch of bluegills, and then enjoying a tasty meal can all add up to a great family experience.

No, fishing isn’t a cure-all for all things bad and evil, but it is close, very close. When I see kids squeal and jump for joy over a flopping bluegill or gyrating catfish, I know those kids are hooked. When I see them notice wildlife, insects, or frogs I realize that they are intrigued as to what God made more than what man made. Let’s state it outright it: fishing is fun. You can get back to nature, catch and release, or else keep some fish for a tasteful bounty. You can learn about the waters and the land and how they coexist. And, if you’re not careful, you’ll learn about some of the best times a family can ever have together. Yes, all this can happen when you take kids fishing.

-By Jim Gronaw