Bait variety is a sign of growth, learning

Jul. 30, 2013 @ 09:18 PM

The one-pound plastic bag of cold shrimp contained enough to occupy my two boys for 15 minutes.
Really, they were not as interested in using the shrimp as bait as much as they were using the fish they caught as bait.
I don’t know all the milestones that occur in the life of a father who is raising two boys to fish. Certainly, the first time you see your son bait his own hook, set the hook, catch the fish and release it all are memorable bricks on this path.
One never knows when reality and observation are going to collide, and such was the case when I dangled my toes in the water and watched my two boys work together to fish.
We were fishing in a hole where the sea bass, croakers, puffers and pinfish make a career of stealing baits. One pound of shrimp doesn’t last very long when the fish are good and reflexes from a young angler are slow.
The goal, as I observed, was to catch a fish that would become bait. The fish enjoyed the free offerings of shrimp.
There was frustration and patience, and there are a few times that I know my boys are focused but this was one of those times.
“I got one,” one said with enough enthusiasm and voice that he attracted the attention of folks nearby.
It was the first fish of the day, a common pinfish, and when their young hands had secured the fish, it soon became bait. I watched them and the people who were watching them, and I felt it was not my place to interfere.
They were careful and efficient, and the pinfish became smaller strips of cut bait.
Of the bricks on the path an angler walks, the cut bait was enough to lure me into a memory.
It was not too long ago that I had to bait hooks for my kids. They were proficient in casting and drowning worms and crickets and just as skilled at tangling and losing too many terminal tackle pieces.
If you are a parent, a mentor or have been in close proximity to a young angler, then you have certainly heard the expression, “I need bait.”
This day, I didn’t hear the expression as much. I observed two boys making the most out of what was around them and also understanding the simple complexities anglers’ exercise when choosing bait.
They had attracted a crowd of sorts while working the knife into this fish. There were scales stuck to an ear, blood across a chest and pieces of fish were stripped and prepared by the youngest of hands.
I didn’t necessarily offer my help, and I also believe my help was not needed. Instead, I was able to observe, admire and I involuntarily found validation in the efforts and struggles since these two were old enough to hold a pole by the water.
The shrimp was warm now, and the cut bait lasted longer on the hooks. When the fish was nearly used, another pinfish was sacrificed as my boys fished.
I don’t know how many fish were caught that day. I know that it took great effort to convince them that every fish did not need to become bait and that leaving fish that were biting, while it goes against the grain of an angler, sometimes must be done.
On this day, I observed an evolution of sorts where becoming self-sufficient and demonstrating a capability in using fresh bait confirmed that these two anglers were growing, learning and applying knowledge.
For as long as I have associated angling with living and as a backdrop to raising kids, I have believed in hooking a child early with the benefits of fishing. In a time when we are all easily distracted and even fewer of us find adventure outside of the box, it is refreshing to see that, at least for a moment in their life, they were not limited to fishing with just one bait.
The same could be said for life, too, that if we approach our lives with just using one kind of resource, we might find that our bites also are limited. However, by living a life where one experience is used to live another, we broaden our life and perhaps we catch more fish.
I know that bait comes in many forms. For these two boys, who fished with dried scales and relics of fish caught and used for bait, I won’t have to worry about them only settling for one bait.
Instead, my chore might just be convincing them to save some fish for the cooler.
Enjoy your time outdoors.

You may contact Jason Hawkins at hawkinsoutdoors@msn.com.