If you are a fisherman, then let me ask you one question: Who took you fishing for the very first time? Yep, dear old Dad!
My start was so far back, I was barely out of diapers before my pop threw a fishing rod in my hand. Being the youngest of five kids, I think he must have learned from taking my oldest brother Tim fishing that it was a great way to keep the children out of his hair (even though he didn't have much).
From my experience raising two kids of my own and showing them the ropes about fishing, it's a process that constantly evolves as they get older. When they were very young, their attention span was all of 10 minutes -- their patience was even shorter. But as the years went by, that patience became longer each and every year. Of course, it took me a while to understand that this lack of patience just comes with the territory, and I wasn't always as patient as I should have been. I desperately wanted them to love fishing and being outdoors as much I did. Being new to parenting, I didn't understand that each child is different. If I remember correctly, it was my daughter Camden who caught on faster than my son Logan who spent most of his younger years back by the bait well torturing and dissecting shrimp.
Had I had the means, and the money, I would have had a whole passel of kids. They are just so much fun. Being the kid I am, it is real easy for me to relate to children, and more often than not, I am scolded more than they are for being immature. I guess that little tidbit shouldn't surprise any of you who know me.
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Now that my kids are both grown, I hop at any chance to fish with kids. This past week my wish came true as I went out with Michael Clawson and his three sons, ages 9, 8 and 6. With a new boat and not all that familiar with these waters, Michael gave me a call and asked me if I would tag along with him and take his boys fishing and maybe show them some places and rigs that work in our waters.
Meeting up at the Hilton Head Boathouse at dawn, Michael walked over with three of the cutest boys, who all looked like they came out of same mold. All had short, sandy blond hair and were well mannered. I could just tell this day was going to be fun -- especially if I could put them on some fish.
Since the winds were light and the sea seemed to be behaving itself, I decided that instead of sitting in the Port Royal Sound catching small shark after small shark maybe an offshore trek to the Betsy Ross Reef might be more fun. Michael had never taken his boat that far out, but from the twinkle in his eye I could tell he was up for it.
The first thing we had to do was catch some live bait, specifically menhaden. As we got close to the south end of Hilton Head Island, huge schools of menhaden were popping on the surface, so I grabbed my cast net and made a toss. You should have seen those boys' eyes as I pulled up no fewer than 100 menhaden in one throw. I probably could have turned around right then and head back to the dock, and they would have been happy. We had our bait and off we went.
Arriving at the Betsy Ross some 15 miles out, I rigged four rods and we bump trolled in hopes of getting a king mackerel or cobia. The youngest, Travis, got that look on his face, and I knew what was coming and did it come up. With no Dramamine, he simply crashed and took it like a champ. No sooner had he finished chumming when a barracuda hit the short bait and flew eight feet in the air. All three boys were dumbstruck. Ryan, the oldest, got the fish in, and the beginning of a diehard angler was pretty much guaranteed.
Though we missed a couple of cobia, the day was full of firsts for both father and sons. Loggerhead sea turtles basking on the surface, hourlong battles with unknown monsters of the deep, huge remoras behind our chum bag and up-close encounters with big tiger sharks as they swam up our chum line only to chow down on our top water bait will be just some of the things these kids will never, ever forget.
So take a kid fishing and if you decide to go offshore remember one thing: Dramamine.
God does not subtract from the allotted span of a man's life the hours spent in fishing. Columnist Collins Doughtie, a graphic designer by trade and fishing guide by choice, sure hopes that's true.