If you listen to the experts, they’ll tell you to teach your children to fish in bits and pieces.
Short attention spans, you see.
We don’t buy that one iota. They’ll either like fishing or hate it.
Reminds us of a neighbor boy who was 6 at the time. He loved to fish. Couldn’t get enough of it. Every time we’d drive home, we’d see him standing on the banks of the pond, rod in hand.
He was rough on the edges, but nice. Wouldn’t have wanted to be his teacher, though. We could imagine the havoc he wreaked in the classroom.
On the water, it was a different story. Water was his ritalin. It calmed and soothed him.
There’s something about a kid who likes fishing. The way we have it figured is that if a youngster is fishing, he’s not apt to get into any trouble.
So, we asked his mother if it was OK to take him fishing. She said it was.
Come Saturday morning, he was ready a half hour early. His hair was neatly combed and he was wearing a clean shirt and pants.
He wanted to know where we were going?
We told him, “Myakka.”
Upper Myakka Lake has a boat basin that’s full of panfish: bluegill, speckled perch, warmouth and stumpknocker. Just perfect for kids of all ages.
The action would be fast and fun.
He told us that his mom was taking his brother fishing.
He said, “Her akka.”
In the bed of the truck, we had a fiberglass extension pole, a few hooks, weights and bobbers. We also had a carton of red worms and a cooler with sandwiches and drinks.
We should have left the cooler at home. The kid didn’t want to take a break. He was having the time of his life catching fish after fish.
He had a knack for fishing. He knew instinctively where to drop his bait. He knew how to put the worm on the hook. He knew how to handle a fish and release it.
Of course, he wanted to keep every fish, but that was the 6-year-old in him. Most of the fish were too small to eat, but that didn’t matter.
They were fish and fish are meant to be eaten.
We had to force him to take a lunch break. As we were walking toward the truck, a rather large lady was approaching.
“Damn, she’s fat,” he said.
We told him it’s not nice to talk about people like that.
He lowered his head and said, “I know, but Jesus she’s fat.”
He took two bites of his sandwich and sipped his drink.
“Is it time to start fishing?”
Lunch was over.
We walked back to the spot and he quickly began catching fish. He even caught a couple of sizeable bluegill that he thought should go right in the cooler.
He fished until late in the afternoon, and he wasn’t ready to go home when we suggested it was time. Reluctantly, he agreed.
On the way home, he asked, “Do you have anymore akkas?”
We just nodded and smiled.
A year later, the now 7-year-old went out with us on a boat. We used live shrimp and caught spotted seatrout, bluefish, Spanish mackerel, jack crevalle and ladyfish.
He had a blast.
We noticed a pretty big fish circling his bobber. It was a cobia and a big one. The fish, however, lost interest and swam off.
A hour later, the fish showed up again. This time, it ate the shrimp. He was using a rod and reel that was a little too small for such a fish. But he did well — with just a little assistance.
When he got the fish near the boat, his eyes widened.
“God damn, it’s a shark!”
He’s not the first angler to mistake a cobia for a shark. We told him it was a cobia.
“Are they good to eat?”
We didn’t release the cobia, which weighed about 35 pounds.
We cleaned the fish back at the ramp and put the two sizeable fillets in the cooler. We told him that if his mom would allow, he could come over for dinner and eat some of the cobia.
When we got to his house, he couldn’t wait to tell his parents about the trip and his big fish.
“Can I go over to his house and help eat it?”
She said it would be fine.
He got cleaned up and was ready to go in five minutes.
We marinated the fillets in zesty Italian dressing and got the grill going. Grilled fish is a favorite in our house. The fillets were about two inches thick, so we placed them on the grill (skinside down) and allowed them to cook for 10 minutes (five minutes per side per inch). Then, we turned them over and grilled them for another 10 minutes.
Meanwhile, the wife was preparing salad, a vegetable and baked potatoes.
We sat down and he was excited. He thought one whole fillet belonged to him.
“I caught it.”
We convinced him to just have a piece. He could have more if he wanted.
His eyes were bigger than his belly.
After dinner, we showed him the pond in the backyard, and, of course, he wanted to fish. But we had to get him back to his parents.
On the drive, we asked if he’d had a good time.
Then he looked at us and said, “I wish you were my dad.”
Grown men aren’t supposed to cry. He didn’t see the tears welling up.