Fishing lessons from a 9-year-old

Thank goodness for Patrick, my 9-year-old grandson. He showed me that there are some whopping nice bluegills in my pond.

I don’t want to get too far ahead of the punchline here, so I’ll start back several summers ago, when I casually stocked maybe a dozen bluegills, caught from buddy Timmy Voland’s pond. This was for eventual dinners for the several largemouth bass, 10-inchers that I already had planted. Hunting by great blue herons and kill from deep-cold winters had taken my previous stockings over the years.

That same summer I stocked a triploid white amur, or grass carp, to help get after the explosive vegetation that can infest a too-shallow pond like mine.

Then came the back-to-back super-cold winters several years back. I figured the fish for goners from winterkill – all but for the too-hardy, bottom-lurking grass carp. In fact, the carp ate so well that it ate itself out of house and home, and its continued bottom-grubbing in the vegetation-clean mud had turned my pond so muddy you could not see more than several inches deep.

A pond-management buddy of mine advised to harvest out the carp, which I did. Unfortunately, the water stayed muddy, thanks to the bankside antics of lots of bullfrogs. I was not about to “harvest” them, too. With excruciatingly slow progress, however, the pond water is clearing. I managed to see at least a couple of the bass, cruising the shallows in May, then the frogs got busy making eggs and tadpoles, and I saw no more bass. I had not seen a bluegill in at least three summers, and figured them for goners.

Then came Patrick. Every grandpa needs a 9-year-old grandson who follows him around outside like a puppy. Asking tons of questions, eagerly eyeing and stealing strokes of my finely remodeled 1939-era Remington 510-P single shot .22. Not today, Patrick. And when are we gonna fish, Grandpa?

The visiting family schedule did not allow a full-blown fishing trip at that point (that would come later), but I finally broke down and told Patrick that if he would help me dig some worms from the mulch pile, we would give Froggy Bottom Pond a go. The activity smoked out his brother, Michael, 10, from the house as well, and pretty soon I was helping with baiting hooks and casting. (Boys both are capable, but in close quarters with little elbow room at my pond, I assisted with casts to keep hooks where they should be and not where they shouldn’t.)

Well, Michael first hooked up with one of the bass, which I noticed has been growing nicely to at least 14 inches or so. That was when the fish broke water and spit the hook. Presently Patrick – after several misfires and constant advice to wait-wait-wait and watch the bobber till it goes under – finally hooked up. His rod bent almost double, as spincast starter rigs are wont to do. I was amazed to see him slide a very nice bluegill, well over 8 inches long, onto the bankside grass. It is way bigger than when it was stocked, at least double in size.

And I thought the ‘gills had succumbed to winters past, or to that dang great blue heron that occasionally prowls the shallows. Wrong.

Note to self: Don’t think a 9-year-old cannot show you something.

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