Lake fishing outing for 4-year-old a success

Mark NaleEarlier this summer I decided to take my four-year-old grandson Trevor fishing to Sayers Lake at Bald Eagle State Park in Centre County. There is a right way and a wrong way to do this. Trust me, having helped to raise three children of my own, I became acquainted with several of the wrong ways.

I took care of the angling department – fishing rods, net, needle-nosed pliers, hooks, bobbers and my fishing license. My wife Gail took care of the important stuff – drinks, snacks, sunscreen and proper clothing.

Trevor enjoyed helping me collect earthworms at home and I stopped at a nearby mom-and-pop tackle shop to purchase a few mealworms for bait. When we arrived at the winter/summer boat launch at Sayers Lake – crappies and sunfish were not visibly swimming everywhere like they had been the week before, so I was a bit disappointed. But  I didn't share that with Trevor.

I baited the hook with a mealworm, cast it out and let the wind drift the bobber, with the bait dangling 2 feet below, across likely-looking panfish water. Trevor held the rod and watched the bobber.

Bobbers are a good idea. They make casting easier and the red and white orb provides a visual signal as to whether a fish is on the line. It also gives the child a target on which he or she can focus their attention.

A few minutes later, the bobber disappeared and Trevor had a fish on the line.  My spare rod is not the easiest for a four-year-old to hold and reel in a fish. A specially-made "kid rod" might be a good future purchase. Nonetheless, soon Trevor had a small, but colorful pumpkinseed sunfish up to the bank. I put it in my landing net so that he could have an opportunity to look at his iridescent catch before we released it. First, though, I took a moment to teach him how to identify the fish.

Putting the fish in a bucket filled with water would have been an even better idea, but since the fish was undersized, that would have been technically illegal at Sayers Lake.

Trevor's patience for fishing was fairly good, but the outing needs to be fun, so it is important for adults to yield to a child's curiosity and attention span and not force the fishing issue. Kids like to reel in the line, and even though I know it is not the most productive way to catch fish I let Trevor have fun.

At one point, Trevor said, "Pop-Pop, I'd like to let my rod fish by itself for a while."

He sloshed with my net in the water, played with my fishing pliers in the sand, tossed rocks into the lake and was totally engrossed as he watched a boater load his motor boat onto a trailer. As soon as the bobber dipped, he was back to the fishing rod to reel a fish in.

In total, we fished for about two hours – evenly split by a picnic lunch with Gail and a little tree climbing.  Trevor was happy to catch three pumpkinseeds and three bluegills.  Bigger is better even at this age – he kept talking about the big bluegill that he caught. A longer outing is probably not a good idea – let the child's interest be the guide.

All in all, it was a good trip that left Trevor with a positive view of fishing. The ice cream cone that we stopped to have on the drive home certainly did not hurt the situation, either.

Fishing, hunting, hiking, bird watching, canoeing – if you care about the future of our sports and the quality of our environment, grasp the opportunity to expose a youngster in your life to the outdoors.

Categories: Pennsylvania – Mark Nale, Social Media

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