A Rare Request
This weekend I finally made it out for a little panfishing. I am still in denial that ice fishing season is starting up, so I headed out with the hopes that I could still find some open productive water. While packing my gear I got an uncommon request. It was from my daughter and she wanted to go fishing. Now for those of you who don't know my kids are not big fans of fishing. They know the rules, if dad is going out in the summer they have to come with. They don't have to actually fish, but they have to join me. You see as a child my family was into competitive horse showing (it's a thing). Whether you wanted to or not you were taking lessons, riding, and showing horses too. To this day I still can't stand being around horses and I don't want my kids to grow up hating fishing so they know that they don't have to fish. They don't even have to bring a pole. I just want them to get outside, do some exploring, and take in the little bit of nature left in our increasingly urban surroundings. So you can imagine my surprise when my little 9 year old ball of fury actually wanted to go. I reminded her that it was cold and that from my experience she has never really been a big fan of freezing, but she said she was cool with it and wanted to go along. We suited up, grabbed some echotails, and headed for Lake Monona.
Pulling up to the triangle she made it clear that she was looking for an adventure. I told her that I knew of a "Secret Spot." We worked our way down the bike path and after a very close call with a rogue cyclist we arrived at the "Secret Spot." Only one little issue, the spot was taken by a homeless person looking for shelter from the wind and cold. It was at this point that I realized that even though I see homeless people all the time, my daughter hasn't and she had a lot of questions. I did my best to explain how it could happen, lack of a job, mental illness, loss of hope. I also explained that as a city we are trying to find ways to help these people instead of just turning a blind eye to the problem. It took some time, but eventually she said she understood and we went to another spot to try for some bluegills. We tucked up under a bridge and after a quick lesson about how to cast in tight quarters we were off and fishing.
The fishing as it turned out was nonexistent with no gills in the the mood for a snack. However the conversation was excellent. We talked about rainbows, minecraft, and what the stuff is that comes out of a wax worm when you squish it. After a bit of rock climbing she decided that we should try another spot. After some debate we decided to head over to the Monona Terrace. While we walked the shoreline I told her that sometimes if I keep a sharp eye on the rocks I find fishing lures that were lost by other anglers. She thought that was pretty cool and soon we were hopping from rock to rock looking in every tiny crevice for the chance to load up on some free fishing tackle. Turns out she has a good eye for finding things and soon she had a small collection of lures to add to her tackle box.
|The spoils of shorefishing in Madison.|
When we arrived at the terrace she became convinced that we would find fish if we casted out from the dock footings. She casted out her line and started exploring around the terrace. I clipped on a small Echotail and started casting out to where the water depth transitioned from 40-6 feet in depth. I guess time got away from me a little bit because when I turned around to see what she was up to I found this on the ground next to me.
Turns out she wasn't asleep, just taking a break. She was hungry and started dropping hints that maybe it was about time we get going. Since nothing was biting I was happy to oblige. One thing you learn quickly when fishing with kids is that having fun is top priority. Nothing will turn them off quicker than when they get bored. Reeling in the rods to pack up I said "Did you know that we can see 4 planets on the walk back to the truck?" She quickly decided that I was lying and that if I wanted to change her mind I would have to prove it. I assured her that I wasn't lying because this part of the bike path has a scale solar system. I told her to look for the silver signs and soon we had found the Sun, Mercury, Venus, Earth, and Mars. I explained that cities are full of these kinds of things, you just need to know where to look.
We had a great time out and about that day even if we didn't see a single fish. I always recommend that people make the most of every opportunity they get to take a kid fishing. It's a rare chance to introduce our sport to a generation hooked on technology. A generation that unfortunately is getting further and further away from a connection with the outdoors. You never know, you just may be the spark that lights a fire.