Nothing fishy about kids getting hooked on angling

Aug. 11, 2014 @ 06:05 PM

Annually, my boys invite willing participants to the house for birthday parties. These parties are centered around kids being kids and parents wishing they had energy to be kids and, of course, the act of fishing. Luckily, we have a pond here that has fish in it, and, because I am not a good angler, most of the fish remain from year to year. I have had the pleasure of watching 4-year-old kids get exposed to the simple concept of worm, hook, watch, pull and laugh.

Fishing is a universal language that kids and adults with kid-like attitudes enjoy together. During these excursions and experiences and exercises in patience and stamina, I have made observations and correlations that certainly someone more educated than me could crunch and identify with specific psychological traits and tendencies.

Me? I just bait the hook and untangle the line. From where I sometimes stand, ankle deep in the water trying to find someone’s shoe in tall grass, kids love fishing because even the smallest fish is the greatest surprise. In a world where we have done a fantastic job of eliminating surprise and curiosity from the minds of children by giving them instant gratification and constant satisfaction, even the accidental hooking of a 7-ounce, farm-pond bluegill is still awesome.

Kids have a special way of challenging those around them. If you think you are good enough on any given Saturday, invite out 10 or more kids and give them fishing poles, sharp hooks and a can of fishing worms living in moistened manure. Even the best and most well-conceived methods of eliminating tangles and fool-proofing a fishing experience will come unglued. It is like a baiting frenzy, of sorts, and peer pressure begins early, especially when one kid is brave enough to bait hooks by touching worms that live in manure moistened dirt. Yet when it all comes together and a baited hook survives pre-flight launching and the impact, and a fish, even if accidentally, bites, suddenly all is perfectly right and restored in the world.

“I got one!” is the proverbial scream, and it’s like yelling, “Look at that!” in a quiet church. Everyone looks. Somehow the fish hangs on and becomes airborne, and in the eye of a child, no matter the level of novice-expertise, every fish is special.

Sometimes the kid touches the fish. Sometimes they pose for the picture that later becomes part of a life’s scrapbook. Sometimes the kid hugs a parent or a peer or they assume this look that all nobly novice to amateur to professional to once-in-a-while to all-the-time anglers assume and never lose — the look of being hooked. This is the kid that would rather someone else eat his piece of cake. And this is the kid that when they finally do eat cake, they don’t mind the remnants of worms on fingers.

Under the disguise of a birthday party, kids are invited for cake and play and fishing.

Yet the world, quite frankly, could use a few more humans who don’t mind birthday cake and fishing worms and being excited by a 7-ounce fish.

Enjoy your time outdoors.

You may reach outdoors columnist Jason Hawkins at hawkinsoutdoors@msn.com.