Teach a man to fish and you feed him for a lifetime. Teach a kid to fish and at some point, he or she will out-fish you.
I enjoy teaching people of all ages how to fish, and I’ve had the privilege of teaching many. Boys and girls, men and women. There is nothing more exulting than watching someone catch their first fish. The pull of the line and bounce of the rod brings out the kid in anyone. It’s impossible to conceal the enthusiasm that a fish ignites in the soul, whether it’s a 5-ounce perch or a 50-pound barracuda.
The coolest part about putting anglers on their first fish is that they will never forget it — and you will live on in that memory, creating your own fishy legacy. If you have the means to take a newbie out, I highly recommend it. You might just achieve rock-star status.
It’s a different story when the pupil becomes the master, and it’s a big slice of humble pie to swallow. And you can’t forget to paste a smile on your face, regardless of your true feelings.
I have two young boys, and they are just getting into fishing, which gives me great pride. My younger son, Cooper, is not much of a fan yet. He has the attention span of a gnat, and my only hard rule when fishing with either of them is not to force them into it. When they say let’s go home, I take them home. It usually happens when the snacks run out, and most of the time I’m the one who ends up calling it a day.
My older son, Maxon, on the other hand, asks me to take him fishing daily. We live on a chain of lakes in central Florida, so it’s pretty easy. He’s gotten much better in the last season or two, but I haven’t put him on any really big fish, though he tells it differently. All of the fish he catches are world records, in his eyes.
Then there’s Colton. This young man has the fire of an angler on a mission. Whenever he sees water, be it a pond, drainage ditch or the Gulf of Mexico, Colton tries to fish. He wants to be a charter captain when he grows up, and I think he’d trade his Xbox for a rod and reel.
Colton is my stepmother’s grandson. He’s 12½ years old, tall, handsome, polite and has a kind way about him. He is a pleasure to be around, and he’s great with my boys. But this little bugger catches more fish than I do, and it’s painful.
At first, Colton thought I was pretty cool because I’ve worked for fishing and boating magazines, and I’ve pulled on a lot of fish in a lot of places. But when he started outfishing me, my coolness factor dropped considerably.
My stepmother lives in Dunedin, Florida, and has a dock on a canal that feeds into the main channel that leads toward Hurricane Pass and the Gulf of Mexico. At low tide, her dock pretty much overlooks a mud paddy, but at high tide, schools of mullet and redfish move through. I’ve fished this dock dozens of times using live shrimp and soft, plastic shad bodies. The best thing I ever caught was a beefy pinfish and an unfortunate amount of hardhead catfish. You don’t want to get stung by those stink bombs.
Last time I was at a family gathering, Colton smoked me on the dock. He caught redfish, sheepshead and snook. Some of them were real whoppers, and I was elated for him until he started telling me where to cast and what baits to use. That was a tough pill to swallow. But then I listened to him, and sure enough, I got a bite. And then I lost the fish. He rode me about that. I would’ve too if I had just outfished a grownup.
Way to go, Colton, keep catching buddy. And save me a spot on deck when you get your captain’s license.