Fishing With Young Kids

One of my pet peeves is the desire of many parents to introduce very young children to fishing tackle and fish species far beyond their ability to properly handle. This article, which I intend to include in an ebook expansion of “Oregon Fish Tales”, covers one child’s path to a proper fishing trip. This article is a work of complete fiction. I hope you enjoy it.


I could not help being excited. My dad was excited, my big brother, Tim, was excited and although I didn’t know very much about the upcoming trip, I knew it was for salmon. We were headed to the Portland Area to fish for chinook salmon and of the three of us, I was the only one that had never gone on one of these highly anticipated trips.

We were leaving in the middle of the night from our home in Tacoma, Washington and driving to our fishing destination which was slightly west of Astoria.

Although it was already later than my usual bedtime of 9:00 pm, my seven year old body was nowhere near ready for sleep. Since I couldn’t sleep, I decided
to read up on our intended fishing area. The spot we would be fishing would be an area called Buoy 10. My father assured me that it was a very famous fishing spot and was located where the Columbia River met the Pacific Ocean. The brochures I was reading, but mostly was looking at, seemed to indicate that anyone fishing that spot was assured of landing several giant salmon.

My parents had insisted that I look at the fishing guide brochures in mybedroom, and eventually, my excitement left me as my body began to shut down in anticipation of sleep.

The next thing I knew, my father was shaking me awake. He seemed both excited and upset, but I later realized that he was mostly mad at him self for slightly oversleeping. As he shook me awake and yelled at me to hurry up and get dressed, it seemed like he was mad at me.

I felt better when my 13 year old brother, Tim, told me that dad was like this every time he started a drive to Astoria on a fishing trip.

A few minutes later, we were in the car traveling south on Interstate 5, with plenty of time for an on-time arrival at the charterboat office. Dad seemed less upset, but still excited, and kept telling me that it would never get better than this trip on which I was surely going to catch my first salmon.

Tim was quiet, but I could tell he was excited. But he kept watching me out of the corner of his eyes and I could tell he was worried about something. I quit thinking of what it might be as I started to nod off.

The next thing I remember is dad gently shaking me awake at the charter office. The three of us would be with three other people aboard the charterboat which was named “The Salmon Seeker”. Dad made sure I had a lifejacket on before one got on the boat. We took up three seats on one side of the boat, while the other family, all adults, took up the three seats on the other side.

The guy everyone called “skipper” got into the boat and sat at the steering wheel, while a young man, about 20 years old, stayed in the back and started giving us safety and fishing instructions. He then took a small fish out of a bucket and before I knew it, he was handing me a rod that he had already baited and let out.

I was fishing.

The first thing I noticed was that the rod was really heavy and I could bare hold it. I was relieved when the bait boy took the rod back and placed it in a pole holder on our side of the boat. He had barely taken his hands off it, when it went down and grabbed it and handed it back to me, telling me that I had a salmon on.

I took the rod and immediately realized that with the salmon pulling on the heavy rod, I could not hold the rod tip up. In fact, I felt like I was going to lose my grip on the rod and everyone on the boat, but especially the skipper, the bait boy and my dad, started hollaring at me.

Just as the rod slipped from my fingers, the bait boy grabbed it and raised the rod tip and began fighting the salmon. As the salmon neared the boat, the bait boy looked at me and asked if I was ready to take the rod back, but I shook my head no. I noticed my father look away with so much disappointment, that it may have been disgust. I wanted to cry.
As the salmon was brought aboard, everyone started congratulating me. The salmon, a 17 pound chinook, was magnificent, but I knew it wasn’t my fish.

With the salmon on board, everyone else got their lines in the water and started fishing. Everyone on the boat caught at least one salmon, but I stared at my rod tip, hoping that I would not get another bite that would surely result in more humiliation.

Dad caught two nice salmon and seemed happy and less disappointed in me, but the highlight of the trip, for me, was when Tim came over and said that the same thing had happened to him on his first salmon fishing trip and he had been nine years old, not seven.

I felt better.

On the way back home, I was happy, because both dad and Tim were happy, but mostly, I was relieved that the fishing trip was over. Later that night, I saw Tim and dad having what seemed to be a serious discussion. At first I thought it was an arguement, but their voices were so low that couldn’t overhear them and Tim was doing most of the talking, which certainly would not be the case in an actual argument. Dad was really paying attention to whatever Tim was saying and then walked apart, seemingly in good spirits and I went on with my seven year old life.

The next day, Tim told me that we were going fishing again, but in a different spot for different kinds of fish. Before I knew what was happening, Tim and I were in the car and dad was driving us somewhere.

The somewhere turned out to be American Lake and as we pulled up to the fishing dock, Tim pulled out a tiny fishing rod complete with reel and line.

I told him that I wasn’t a baby and I wasn’t going to use what was obviously a baby’s fishing pole, Tim then pulled out a slightly larger fishing rod and handed it to me and said he would fish with the smaller rod.

Dad, who had not gotten out of the car, stated that he would be back in three hours to pick us up and to have a good time.

Tim then put a lifejacket on me and walked me partway out of the dock and started to bait my hook with a piece of nightcrawler.

I asked him what we were fishing for and Tim said, “whatever bites”. Tim then threw my worm and tiny bobber combination into the water next to the dock. He then seemed to take a very long time baiting his rod and before he had done so, I noticed my bobber dancing.

I set the hook and hauled out a small chunky fish and Tim told me that it was a pumpkinseed sunfish. He took it off my hook and put in the bucket he had filled with water before he started baiting his hook.
Tim rebaited my hook and before he could even pick up his fishing rod, my bobber was dancing again. This time the fish gave a good fight on the small outfit and when I hauled it on the dock, I noticed that it was a different kind of fish.

Tim told me that it was a rock bass and he measured it and told me it was an eight incher and that it was a big one for that kind of fish. He threw it in the bucket with the pumkinseed and, once again, baited my hook.

This time, he managed to get his worm and bobber in the water before I flopped another fish on the dock. This fish was at least as long as the rock bass, but more skinny, and Tim said that I had caught a yellow perch.

My confidence was soaring. I had caught three fish more than my big brother and I had very little trouble handling the kid-sized fishing outfit that I was using. Tim didn’t seem too upset to have to use an even smaller fishing outfit and when a kid about his age started teasing him about his “baby pole”, Tim laughed and held up a yellow perch that he had just hooked that had to be at least 11-inches long. The kid, who had yet to catch a fish, walked off in a hurry.

Tim and I were both catching fish now and I even was baiting my own hook and unhooking my own fish. But I noticed that whenever Tim got close to having caught as many fish as I had, he took a long time baiting his hook.

When nearly three hours were up, we had a bucketload of several kinds of panfish. Most of the fish were rock bass, yellow perch and pumpkinseed sunfish, but there were also a couple of catfish, crappies and bluegills in the bucket as well.

Tim told me that the catfish were brown bullheads and that the crappies were black crappies and there was a species of crappie called white crappie.

About that time dad pulled up and grinned widely when Tim showed him the bucket of fish and told him that I had caught most of them. Dad said to dump the water out of the bucket and he would show us how to clean the fish so that there were no bones in them.

We put the bucket and our fishing gear in the trunk and hopped in the car. I had never been more proud of myself and I think that dad and Tim were pretty proud of me, too.

When we got home, Tim took the bucket out of the trunk, handed it to me, and told me to go show mom our fish.

Mom was delighted and said that if dad would clean the fish, she would cook them up and show us how delicious they tasted.

Dad started cleaning the fish and showed both Tim and I how he did it. He said he was filetting them and the tiny slabs of meat ended up boneless and skinless. Dad let Tim filet some of the fish, but dad got lots more meat out of each fish. He wouldn’t let me anywhere near the filet knife, stating that I would be cleaning more fish than I wanted within a few years.

We had more than 50 fish and it took dad nearly two hours to clean them all, but by the time he finished, mom was ready to cook them. She cooked them several different ways, but she deep-fried most of them in cooking oil. Every filet, no matter how it was cooked, was delicious and the whole family enjoyed the meal.

I felt really good, knowing that I had caught most of the fish and I had pretty much fed the family this meal of fish. Then I glanced at my brother and noticed that he had a big smile on his face as a moment later, he raised a tomato juice toast to my fishing prowess.

I beamed, but moments later, I came to my senses and realized that Tim had made sure that I was going to catch most of the fish that day. I also realized that he had a lot to do with making sure I had a fishing outfit I could handle. In fact, he did everything but actually catch the fish.

But it didn’t bother me.

In fact,that evening I became completely convinced that I was part of a very special family and I knew with complete certainly that a big reason why – was because of my big brother.

About Pete Heley

Writes and self-publishes Oregon and Washington fishing books.

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