My granddaughter Elena shows a feisty bluegill she recently caught at a local pond. It doesn't have to be a big fish to be big fun!
My granddaughter Elena shows a feisty bluegill she recently caught at a local pond. It doesn't have to be a big fish to be big fun! (Jim Gronaw photo)

Baseball, hot dogs, and apple pie. American stuff.

Things that are synonymous with our traditions and heritage. There are two other things I’d like to throw in there. Actually, they go hand and hand. That is the incomparable combo of kids and fishing. Sure, you could probably toss video games, Xbox and electronic devices in the modern, millennial mix of “all things growing up."


But I’m old school, slow and a little bit in the way.

When I was a child growing up, I had a bicycle, baseball bat and glove, and a fishing rod and reel. That’s about it, and I was happy to have that. My summer days were filled with long bike treks in search of bass, bluegills, catfish and carp and any other specie that would dare feast on my simple hook and line efforts of garden worms or the occasional doughball.

There were a few highlights, then more lowlights. But it was always, always an adventure.

Today, there are a lot of people, places and things that pull at our children…sports of all kinds, those previously mentioned video games and many competitions from all facets of life and interests. Not to mention the extreme importance of “growing up," “acting cool,” or getting a foothold on today’s anti-social media platforms.

Let’s face it ... today’s kids are just growing up way too fast for any parent to enjoy.

My father quickly realized that my deep interest and passion for angling was something that could possibly keep me out of trouble and off the streets. Even back in the early 1960s there were concerns of delinquency. So, with very little fishing experience of his own, he fought the good fight and outfitted me and my older brother with fishing gear, tackle boxes and a couple dozen nightcrawlers here and there.

Catches were slim, but we did manage a stringer of crappies here and there along with the rare 4 to 5-pound bass as heroic events in our young angling lives.

In recent years, we have been taking our grand daughters along on some trips to the ponds, creeks or even Deep Creek Lake. Both 6-year-old Abby and 9-year-old Elena “like” fishing. But when a few fish are caught, and the initial excitement has spiraled to a “sit and wait” scenario, then it’s time for nature observations.

Elena can spot a deer at 100 yards or a soaring redtail heading for a distant deadfall. Abby, on the other hand, digs digging in the mud with a sturdy stick she found along the shoreline. Both of them love to play with the leftover minnows in the bait bucket. Bugs, especially spiders, are of great interest. Chipmunks and squirrels are fun.

Snacks are pretty important, as are refreshing drinks, Purell and more snacks. Sometimes a small, folding chair comes in handy and maybe some of those “baby-wipe” thingys that work for a number of chores. But one thing that always seems to hold their attention, at least for a little while. Is the haunting view of a small, red and white bobber as it dances from the tug of a willing bluegill below.

Yes, I’ll admit it: I have had “bobbers down syndrome” for many years. To me, there is no known cure.

Once you see the bobber disappear, you just have to satisfy that hypnotic urge and set the hook, just to see what’s on the other end. This all happened to me back when I was 5 years old. To this very day I haven’t been the same since. That was in 1957. Yes, I am that old.

My son Matthew also got hooked at a young age. I think he was ten when he caught a legal northern pike and paraded it to friends and family throughout the neighborhood. What a day, what an experience!

We have since shared many angling adventures that ranged from bass to carp to big crappies to stripers and blue cats. Yes, he is that old.


Had I not been addicted to watching bobbers disappear I would have likely succumbed to other transgressions like weekend softball tournaments, October beer fests, or even golf. But God planted me on a course of waters and woods and the things that go with them.

No, we didn’t have Xbox, cell phones, or anything like that when I was growing up, and I’m glad we didn’t.

Fishing wasn’t a cure-all for all things bad and evil, but it was very close. When I see kids squeal and jump for joy over a flopping bluegill or gyrating catfish, I know those kids are hooked. When I see them notice wildlife, insects or frogs I realize that they are intrigued as to what God made more than what man made. Let’s face it, fishing is fun. You can get back to nature, catch and release or else keep some fish for a tasteful bounty. You can learn about the waters and the land and how they co-exist. And, if you’re not careful, you’ll learn about some of the best times a family can ever have together. Yes, all this can happen when kids go fishing.