Each summer one of my most entertaining assignments is volunteering to supervise a fishing trip for the kids of the Casements Enviro Day Camp.
The antics of the young anglers always provide me with lots of good stories to pass on. This year when I arrived at the little pavilion over the water in Ormond's Fortunato Park, I found a serious angler already there. As it turned out the fellow was a loyal reader and recognized me right away from my mug shot on this page.
His name was Joe Kelly and he told me he is a brother of a friend of mine. As gently as I could, I told him the place would soon be invaded by a swarm of screaming kids between the ages of 6 and 10. He had come there hoping to spend a few quiet hours, but that was not going to happen. Joe decided to stick it out and even offered to help with the children. Good deal.
Soon enough, 30 eager anglers arrived under the careful supervision of the Casements Siobhan Daly and her staff. After squirming through a short speech from yours truly on safety and the release of any fish caught, the little ones were assigned a push button reel and rod. As it happens each year when the fishing begins, most of the children won't touch the dead shrimp we use for bait. That always changes later in the morning. When we had all of the lines baited and in the water instant frustration set in.
The kids always show up with a short attention span and a good measure of impatience to boot. On these days the fishing always begins slowly, but once the odor of 30 shrimp baits permeates the water things pick up.
First up was a small croaker that amazed the fishermen with its ability to "talk."
The kids loved to hear the grunts from the little fish. Next the mangrove snapper began to bite and their very visible teeth caused a lot of squeals from the crowd. Once the sailor's choice began to hit, almost all of the kids were able to get in on the catch. Good fun for all!
When the action was over and the children were eating their hot dog lunch in the park, I gave out the awards.
The largest fish caught was a nice catfish hauled up by Garret Lorfand of Orlando. Usually I give out a prize for "ugliest fish," but on this day all the fish were beautiful so I switched and gave Boston Milligan an award for his fat mango snapper. One kid I could not ignore was young Alex Mikheyenko who was top fisherman with nine caught.
Way to go Alex!
You know I am often asked why I give so much of my time to kids fishing. On
this day the answer was never so obvious. Once the awards were given and
the speeches made, the kids thanked me in chorus and I took my leave, happy but tired.
On my way to the truck I heard the sound of shuffling feet behind me. When I turned there stood a tiny little girl of maybe 3 feet in height. "May I help you?" I asked. Looking down at her shoes the child said "Mr. Dan I just wanted to thank you for teaching me to fish." I smiled and told her I was happy she had enjoyed it. "Tell your parents to take you again," I said. "I will and on Christmas I am going to ask for my present to be a rod and reel." Oh my! What is that worth to an old salt?
This child had been lost in the crowd that day. I never singled her out and don't really know if she actually caught a fish. I don't even know her name, but what she gave me I will never forget. Please take a kid fishing. The payoff can be huge.
Dan Smith has fished the waters of Volusia County for more than 40 years. Email questions and comments to email@example.com. His book, "I Swear the Snook Drowned," is available for $10.95 at (386) 441-7793.