(Grand) girls gone fishin'
Elena and Abby Gronaw enjoyed small but spirited tussles from Deep Creek Lake's abundant smallmouth bass population back in August. (Jim Gronaw photo)

A little over three years ago, I got to take my first grand daughter, Elena, on a fishing trip to a local pond where she caught her first fish of her lifetime ... a modest sized bluegill. We took photos of the fish and her and caught a few more, including some colorful pumpkinseed sunfish. It was a great time to be outdoors and enjoying God's creation with her and just having fun.

Just last month, on our family vacation to Western Maryland's Garrett County, my son Matt and I had another chance to take the girls fishing in a completely different setting. We had checked out the Deep Creek Lake State Park area and found that a lot of diminutive but co-operative smallmouth bass were hanging out in the shallows and willing to pounce on a small shiner fished below a bobber. After catching several, we made plans to return the next morning with the grand girls and a bucket of bait.


We started off by hitting the local donut shop for some fresh, morning pastries and grabbed a small pale of minnows from Bill's Outdoors and then headed to the lake. Rigging up some ultralight spinning rods with 4-pound line, we drifted the minnows in and around the docks and schooled the girls on simple bait fishing tactics.

Easy enough, we would just cast out and let the minnow draw the fish and watch the bobber disappear out of sight ... something I have been addicted to for a long, long time!

Almost immediately, bobbers started dipping and trailing and diving to the depths as aggressive and hungry smallmouths jumped right on them. Matt and I would make sure the fish were hooked with a firm sweep of the rod, then hand the outfit to the girls and watch as the spirited bass would put a healthy arc in the tiny rods, bowing and zig-zagging. Elena and Abby would squeal and giggle in the turmoil and frenzy of the small but powerful fish on the ultralight gear. Nothing big, mind you.

But 10- to 12-inch smallmouths are a great way to get a child interested in catching fish.

For about 40-minutes action was pretty hot, as the girls, aged 6 (Elena) and 3 (Abby) would get to the point where they could actually "read" the action of the bobber and anticipate, even see, a smallmouth as it would chase the minnows and run them to the surface. The water was clear and that made things even more interesting for the children as they could see close to the bottom in 6-8 feet of water and watch some of the action.

They were laughing and yelling when we would help them hoist a fish over the rail and we would take a quick picture of them and the fish.

"Let's do that again," Elena would say and we would let them grab a minnow out of the bucket for the next catch.

After a bit, the fishing died down and other park visitors were checking us out and staring, wondering what all the shouting was about and why two grown men and a couple little kids were acting like clowns out on the pier. It was then that we decided to let the girls release the remainder of our minnows, one by one, off the side of the concrete dock. The deal was, however, they had to catch them by hand ... out of the bucket ... and toss them in the water.

And that was when the real fun began!

Although donuts and catching fish and watching bobbers had been a hoot so far, nothing could compare to these two precious little girls reaching into the bucket and trying to capture the minnows and release them to their new home. Some how, some way, both Elena and Abby managed to "hand grab" more than two dozen minnows, get wet, shriek and squeal and go crazy with laughter as the bait bounced and slithered and slipped from their grasp yet eventually made it to the water.

It was funny, it was loud, and it was beautiful. And it wasn't all just about the fishing. Yes ... girls just wanna have fun!

I'll never forget that day at Deep Creek Lake just a few weeks ago, or the lessons my grand daughters taught me. It's not always about what you catch, or how big it is or even if you catch anything at all. If you can't make an outdoor adventure fun for a young child, then chances are they might not pursue fishing, hunting, camping or other adventures at all.

Don't be afraid to take them out and spend time with them because one day that time will quickly pass. I am sure that as time marches on their brains and bodies will be occupied with things like computers, cell phones, sports, school and college.

But for one beautiful and glorious day on a dock on a lake, Elena and Abby Gronaw went crazy with laughter over fish, slime and getting wet. What a memory!