Hey, the kids are out of school and it's time to get them fishing.
It has always been important for parents to give their children a nudge into nature but in this modern electronic world it is more important than ever. It is a sad state when you realize that most of our kids only see fish on the screen saver of their computer.
There are lots of ways to start the youngsters fishing. All manner of fishing equipment is readily available. Most go with spinning reels, either open or closed face models. I will ask you to stop here for a second and remember how you began. I'll wager your mind took you back to a bobber hanging from the end of a cane pole. Remember the anticipation as that ol' cork dipped a couple of times and then darted under? How about the glee you felt when you whipped that blue gill out of the water? Your shirt buttons nearly popped with pride as your parents or grandparents praised your catch. Boy, that old cane pole was your best friend. It wouldn't be a bad idea to introduce the child in your life to cane pole fishing so they could have the same fun. One of my own excellent memories was fishing with my dad in Louisiana's Atchafalaya Swamp.
The blue gill were plentiful and I had broken a thin willow branch to use as a stringer. My dad had wandered up the bank when I hooked something big. I immediately began to scream for help. "Pull it in," I heard my dad yell. That seemed easy enough in theory, but I was a little tyke and the bank was wet and muddy. The fish was pulling me into the water. When my feet hit solid ground I put that cane pole over my shoulder and ran in the opposite direction. Sure enough I dragged a big mudfish or bowfin up onto the bank. I had never seen one before and I remember thinking that it was just about the ugliest creature on earth. Still, when my father told me I had done a good job I was very proud.
On another trip to that same swamp I had a baby alligator swallow my red and white plastic bobber. To this day, those are great memories. Don't deprive your kids of moments like those. No matter where you live in Volusia County there is a body of water nearby that is just perfect for cane pole fishing. It's not just for fresh water either. A bait under a bobber slung from a bamboo will work great in our brackish water as well. Of course, the four things that really belong together are kids, earthworms, bobbers and a limber cane pole.
Needless to say, it is not just for children. A few years ago I found myself eating lunch at a small fishing village on the St. Johns River just south of Palatka. I was standing on a rickety old wooden dock enjoying the view when a tired old Buick from the early 1980s pulled to a halt. A woman who may have been 60 or 90 climbed out, straightened a big straw hat and took up a brown paper bag. As she walked out onto the dock she ignored the Buick which continued to run although it had been turned off. She threw a couple of handfuls of what may have been dry cat food onto the water and turned to go back for her cane pole. The Buick ground to a halt with a big sigh. By the time she had returned, fish were popping hard at her cat food. The woman made herself comfortable and I could see that this was a scene that had played out many times. Soon she jerked out a fat perch and threw it into her white bucket. I watched her catch six or eight more and then she left. I suppose she had enough for supper or at least all she was ready to clean. It was clear as she pulled away with the old car blowing smoke rings from the tailpipe that she would save some for another day.
You know, an expensive fishing rig is a pleasure, but my all time favorite is a plain cane pole. I bet that old lady on the St. Johns would tell you the same thing.
Dan Smith has fished the waters of Volusia County for more than 40 years. Email questions and comments to firstname.lastname@example.org. His book, "I Swear the Snook Drowned," is available for $10.95 at (386) 441-7793