On the water … anglers grow up to be like their fathers in Pennsylvania

There are times, I think, when kids go bad, or good, as the case may be, and it’s not their parents’ fault, or the parents can take no credit. Conversely, there are times when we greatly influence our kids either positively, or negatively, and we really should own up to it.

So I’m coming clean, and since I’m not certain if my, um, “inspiration” has been a good thing or a bad thing, perhaps you’ll be somewhat understanding of this post.

Lately, my 31-year-old son and I have been discussing — way more than I’m comfortable with — how we can’t seem to help turning into our fathers. I am finally at peace with the concept — him, not so much. After about 50 years of trying hard not to, I turned into my dad – look like him, sound like him, often think like him, similar jokes and gestures, etc. And I miss him most every day.

Never thought I would — I was a mama’s boy. But I digress …

Anyway, I raised my son on the water as much as I could. First in a canoe, then a johnboat, then in a pontoon boat set up for fishing. We waded, too. Lakes, rivers, trout streams, ponds … It didn’t much matter. So long as fish swam there, it was all good.

I’d like to tell you that I did it for the kid’s good, for some noble, altruistic conviction that “fishing makes you a better man” — and I think my dad actually believed that. But truth is, it simply happened, because dragging my son along allowed me to be on the water.

And when I was younger, I just had to be there.

At first, when he was too little to fish, I discovered that playing with my extensive collection of plastic twister tails, tubes, worms and creature baits in the bottom of the boat could keep the poor kid endlessly occupied. I’d fish for bass all evening and he’d rarely look up — except when I caught one.

We would admire it, maybe “pet” it, feel its teeth and then the little guy got to throw it back. Bass after bass, and he never seemed to grow tired of the routine.

Later, we became every panfish’s worst nightmare, and we regularly filled the FryBaby with rockbass, sunfish, crappie and perch fillets. The kid and his sisters would eat them as fast as I could bread and fry them. But the girls never caught the fishing bug, even though I tried to tempt them.

It was about that time that a neighbor saw my very young son, with the intensity of a brain surgeon, cutting up panfish with my favorite 4-inch fillet knife. She accused me of child abuse. But I don’t remember him ever cutting himself. “I watch him closely — he can handle it,” I told her, somewhat defensively. But perhaps, as she claimed, I was a derelict dad … But again, I digress.

The bottom line to all of this is that when it was time for him to go to college, his mom and I wanted him to be a doctor, veterinarian or engineer — he had the head for all of that — but he chose wildlife and fisheries science and then ecology for his master’s degree. That’s surely not a path to affluence (although it is better than being a writer).

After conducting research with largemouth bass (what else?) as a grad student, he spent a couple years working with fisheries and aquatic invasive species in Wyoming — and fly-fishing for trout on blue-ribbon streams every chance he got. And now, directing Vermont’s aquatic invasive species program, he still fishes in his free time, even after spending a whole day on the water working.

I am rambling, I know, but what started me thinking about all this was a conversation we had the other night after he spent an evening on a New England pond full of bass. He told me about his daughter playing with plastic worms for hours in the bottom of his boat while he fished. And she got to release quite a few fish.

And then he sent me this video … The apple doesn’t fall far from the tree, does it? And for better or worse, it’s all my fault.

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