This past weekend was the Minnesota Fishing Opener so I did what any good dad should do…take their kid fishing. Of course, the fishing opener is much more than just fishing. It’s a time to gather in the entirety of the experience, passed on from one generation to the next.
Our fishing outing began by stopping at Cabela’s. You see, accompanying me fishing was my soon-to-be 8y/o daughter who has been anticipating this experience for several weeks. What’s a good dad to do…well, you build excitement over the event because as experience has taught me…sometimes early season fishing can be downright slow. Especially for younger children.
While at Cabela’s we were in search of a “lucky fishing hat” suitable for a little red-haired girl. Eventually we found one that looked capable of not only blocking the harsh sun rays, but also delivering on the piscatorial fortune we had attributed to the hat. After all, if you believe something to be “lucky” isn’t that half the battle?
Next, we had this pink, plastic Plano tacklebox that needed more “stuff.” You know, the kind of “stuff” fishermen cram into their boxes to help complete it for just about any fishing situation. We purchased bobbers, hooks, sinkers, pliers, lures, bait…you know, all the good “stuff” that any self-respecting fisherman should carry.
By now, our cart was filling up with plenty of fun fishing items to help fuel the fishing fires burning inside both of us. It was about that time Elsie asked, “Dad, can we go over to look at the bait?” Sure, that is next on our list.
We approached an employee who seemed eager to help us with all of our live bait needs. Elsie peered into the tanks to look at the fathead minnows, the shiner minnows, taking in the lovely sights and smells that only a dedicated fisherman could possibly enjoy.
It was about that time when the employee asked if Elsie would like to hold a leech. He took his dip net into the big tank and flopped out a big black ribbon leech onto the counter. Elsie stared at it for a moment watching it squirm and wiggle. As it did its little dance trying to escape back into the water, Elsie reached down and picked it up. She cupped her hands and watched it slither and wildly squirm for about 30 seconds.
I then told her to throw it back into the water tank and let’s get going. As I proceeded to thank the employee for his time, he made a comment that could not have made me more proud. You see, what I learned is this employee likes to scoop leeches up and encourage young kids to play with them. Part of it is to encourage contact with a form of bait not always pleasant to touch. Another aspect is to learn more about the kids.
As we were about to walk away he told me your daughter just did something that most boys her age will NOT do. “Really,” I said, “boys won’t touch leeches…what is wrong with them?” The employee went on to explain how most young kids her age will refuse to touch them. He actually stated how it warms his heart to see a young child so eager to explore their natural world horizons.
At first I thought, WOW! How could inquisitive kids who come into a Cabela’s store not want to touch a leech. When I was that age I wouldn’t have given touching a leech a second thought. But, things have changed. Society has changed. By nature, and I hate to say this, but many kids are not automatically drawn to engage in such experiences like kids once were.
I never for a minute considered that Elsie would have an aversion to touching a leech. That’s not how she is being raised. If you want to fish you touch crawlers, minnows, grubs, leeches and other such things that fish like to eat. Indeed, not only do you bait your own hook when fishing with me…but when you can do it safely you also remove your own fish. It’s all part of the experience of…well, fishing.
Now, certainly I’m not saying that touching a leech is some sort of magical litmus test for whether kids will grow up to be positively engaged in the outdoors. Nevertheless, I’ve taken every opportunity possible for Elsie to be present when I clean game and fowl. After all, she dreams of being a veterinarian someday so why would I want to delay her first-hand exposure to the innards of God’s creatures.
And all of this is such a good reason to take a kid fishing. Not only does it help develop a lifetime enjoyment with one of the best outdoor recreations available, but it helps to push kids beyond their normal comfort levels. Kids need to realize how death does not only occur on video games and in the outdoors, as in life, there are no reset buttons or “do-overs” if things don’t go well.