Thursday, June 30, 2011

Yes, You DO Have a Spot to Take Your Kids Fishing!

Take me out to the ball game....
Yup.  That's a sunfish. From a pond. Behind a baseball field.  The facts that it's a tiny fish, and that I caught 30 of them in 20 minutes, are pretty secondary.  I look forward to teaching my son to fish at a place like this.

I get emails from people almost every week who say, "I wish I could take my kids fishing, but there's nowhere near home in (insert Mid-Atlantic state) with any fish."   You know, maybe that's true in Arizona and northwest Texas.  But it's really not true on the east coast. 

There is no shortage of water with fish in it here.  There's just not.  But I can't seem to convince people of it, and I guess they don't have the same vision as I do.  The more I think about it, the more I think the problem is that when they say "there's nowhere with any fish," they are thinking there's nowhere like this with any fish like this and they don't have a boat like this:

This pic of KVD has been stolen and reposted so many times.....I'll give anybody credit for it who can claim it as theirs!

And see, I'd actually disagree with that too.  You may not have the boat, which means not having the ability to cover as much water in as little time as a pro angler, but normal people catch big fish in normal places all the time, with little more than live bait and a busted up old canoe (or a pair of shoes they're not afraid to get wet). 

But let's accept the totally shady argument that because you don't have a powerboat, you don't have access to big fish.   So I have to ask then - if you are really trying to fish with and for your kids, why do the fish have to be big?  Are you really eating largemouth bass at your house?

In my opinion (now having had assisted several friends with teaching their kids to fish), taking your kids fishing should be based on:

1. Teaching them basic water safety and basic fishing skills, i.e. casting and baiting a hook, not wading into moving water or water that has any real depth.
2. Teaching them the "feel" of hooking a fish and getting the fish "to hand."
3. Teaching them to be comfortable with the other things going on around the stream, pond, or river - from beavers to herons to snakes.  From cold water to hot sun.
4. Allowing them to explore at their own pace.
5. Having fun - or else all is for naught.  This means prepping your gear ahead of time, bringing a cooler full of snacks, and bringing a dry set of clothes for everybody. 

When you're feeling like there is nowhere to take the kids fishing, think about those 5 points above.  And then start to re-evaluate the landscape around you.  Some places to look:

  • Suburban streams that have flow in the summer months, and also have plant cover like lily pads, or animals like crayfish, that indicate decent water quality and food for small baitfish
  • Abandoned gravel and sand quarry pits (inspect the site for basic safety & no trespassing signs before taking your kids)
  • Stormwater ponds on college campuses (they are less likely to use chemicals to kill off the fish)
  • Older wetland mitigation areas surrounding highways and suburban developments - newly restored wetlands rarely hold fishable water all year, but projects built in the 1980s-early 1990s have deep pools that most certainly will hold fish
  • Small/old water supply reservoirs - if they're not open to fishing all the time, small towns usually have "fishing derbies" or other similar events to allow kids to fish a few days per year. 
These are just a few of the many types of fishing opportunities available in urban and suburban areas on the east coast.  In this age of google maps, there's no excuse for not knowing where some of them are, and then checking them out for "kid suitability" before you fish them.  You will catch fish. Eventually.  They will usually be small.  But not always.  And if you're still convinced that these "low rent" fishing spots don't hold big fish, well then you better not look at these pictures.

Nice largemouth at a stormwater pond overflow structure.  This could be you.

See the chain link fence? That's a stormwater pond. And a HUGE bass.

Peacock bass from the bank of a residential canal.  Not difficult.  Big, fun, fish.

And remember - pack a camera!


Alex said...

Shhh! Don't let the secret out ;)

A lot of those suburban ponds and canals simply get overlooked by most people. I think that has something to do with them holding some very big fish.

I can testify to those south Florida canals too. I've got some older reports where we've torn the bass and exotics up just spitting distance from a major city.

Ken G said...

I have these same issues in the Chicago area. Water is everywhere. Three things I learned teaching kids to fish:
1. If it's bigger than their hand, it's a big fish.
2. They have an attention span of about 45 minutes, so stop then.
3. Fishing trips with kids should always end at the local ice cream shop.

Okay, number 3 was for me.

Anonymous said...

I applaud you for writing this post. Well done, my friend! Kids are the future of sustainable fishing in our country.

Its Time to Live said...

We have thousands of places to fish here but I prefer to wander the woods with my camera. When my dad would take us fishing as kids, I usually hid my pole and took a hike. Sorry ;)

Kirk Mantay said...

Hey, I could care less what anybody does outdoors as long as it's not destructive to the overall resources and IT'S OUTDOORS!

I guarantee that an angler and a hiker will stand side-by-side on 90% of environmental / outdoor access legislation issues. And that's what's important......because it will give your grandkids the choice to fish or hike or paddle or hunt or bird watch somewhere near their home one day!

Kirk Mantay said...

Alex - you're totally right. One of my brother's favorite fishing spots is a baptist church stormwater pond in the Tidewater VA region! He's never even taken ME!

Kirk Mantay said...

Mel & Ken - thanks for the comments. And Ken - those are three good ones - I'll remember those!

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