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Do you want to go fishing?

6/8/2009

National Fishing and Boating Week is June 6-14, the same week of many states' Free Fishing Days.

For a wealth of fishing and boating information visit TakeMeFishing.org. You can even play the interactive game "Catch a Boat" and maybe win a boat.

This designated week is a great excuse to take the family out for an aquatic excursion.

According to online interviews conducted by outdoorfoundation.org, kids 6 and over preferred to fish more than any other outdoor activity, with motivation bolstered significantly by fishing's "fun" qualities.

Some of my fondest childhood memories are fishing with my Dad. And I hope I already have contributed some great memories to my kids from our time on the water.

For instance, last summer my 5-year-old boy and I took the 14-foot Alumar across Lake McMurtry to chase some white bass. Just as we reached the far side of the lake, the motor sputtered and died. If I hadn't taken my son, I wouldn't have gotten to hear:

"Didn't start. Didn't start. It didn't start, Dad," with each consecutive yank of the starter cord. Priceless.

PJ O'Rourke once wrote, "If you keep people busy and confused, they are liable to think they are having fun."

The same goes with kids fishing. While checking life vests and loading gear, you can even let the little ones do something right up their alley — catch bait. Grasshoppers, crickets and earthworms can be found in many backyards. Plus, this keeps the kids out of ear range when you pinch your fingers trying to shut the ball hitch lock.

Bait is a great way to start young anglers because it works. No overwhelming lure choices. No constant tying of new lures. No need to worry about lure retrieval speed or action.

In fact, if the location is carefully chosen (like a dock or boating over a brushpile), there may not even be a need to cast; just drop the bait at the end of the pole. This also means a higher chance of not having unnecessary body piercing. Bobbers help develop hook set timing and give kids something to watch, serving as a brightly colored gauge of fish activity below.

Try not to let them name the bait, and be prepared to bring it home. You've may have just purchased 36 new fathead minnow pets. One minnow-less fishing trip my son, 4 at the time, summed it up thusly, as I dumped our new household members into our 30-gallon aquarium, "I like minnows ... and cheese."

There is a limited window of time to fish with kids. And there is perceived pressure to put them on fish, quickly. But kids don't have to catch fish to have fun on a fishing trip.

Fisheries professionals often measure the angling quality of body of water with data called CPUE (Catch Per Unit Effort); I measure in CPUC (Catch Per Unit Cheeto). Snacks, juice boxes, handy wipes ... With life jacket as a lobster bib, my kids get dinner and a show.

Don't plan on fishing yourself. You are part of the show: instructing, baiting hooks, untangling knots, freeing hooks from snags, and hopefully, unhooking fish. And if you do manage your three casts of the day while they are playing with the minnows or staging night crawler races across the bottom of the boat, you will end up fishing with their Snoopy rod.

So, be careful not to skimp on your kids' tackle even though they will eventually drop it overboard. There is no rule that Snoopy can't be spooled with 10-pound Fireline.

Steve Hansen, Regional Lake Manager with PLM Lake & Land Management (hopefully you'll learn more about him later) has raised two young anglers, a son, 7 and daughter, 11, who are now well beyond bait.

"Last summer my friend Tom and I challenged (my kids) to a bass tournament on a nearby lake. No live bait, just artificials on spinning reels. I have never been so frustrated, yet so proud. To make a painful story short, they beat us 18 to 10. I used to think I could out fish them at will," he wrote in an e-mail. "I don't think that now. They are just as capable and often outfish me. I love it!"

And for hard-core fun seekers, a five-year-old who occasionally forgets to look behind him armed with a double treble-hooked plug in a small jon boat rivals the thrill of any rollercoaster ride. Just be sure to pinch the barbs. Makes it a whole lot easier to remove from Dad's ear.