So you decided to take the kids out for some free fish. You’ve started to load up the old minivan with rods and lures and such. But have you packed the mosquito repellent? The sunblock? The snake whacker? Don’t be fooled — when you go out into nature, nature fights back.
Here in the midwest, I’m fortunate that most of my fishin’ consists of small lakes at state parks. I could easily take the kids to lakes on private property (where I know the owners) or even fish in the nearby river. But I like to make my fishin’ go easy. I opt for lakes with banks that are regularly mowed — thereby reducing the chance of ticks, chiggers and other insect hitchhikers that could turn my kids’ peaceful day into a shrieking, six- (or eight-) legged nightmare.
If the creepy crawlers aren’t bad enough, there’s the wasps, bees, and other flying bugs that can put your little ones in a panic, especially those damned blood-suckers: mosquitos. If there’s one thing I’ve learned in all my years of fishing, it’s that to catch fish, you first gotta catch skeeters, ’cause if the fish are bitin’, so are the skeeters.
But bugs aren’t the only dangers when you go fishin’. You aren’t going to drive up to the water (unless you’re launching a boat). You’ve got to park and walk. That means trails or at least big stretches of open area — areas that snakes like to slither through. That has happened to me. I’m walking along with my little one and there’s a snake — literally crossing our path. I know snakes are color-coded and that the really bad ones make noise, but I don’t take chances. In my opinion, when it comes to my kids, the only good snakes are dead snakes — and snakes that get made into belts, boots, and jackets. Maybe hat bands, too. I haven’t really decided.
Anyways, you’ve got to keep your eyes open, ’cause your kids won’t. Think about all the times you’ve watched your kids step on toys, walk into walls, or turn in circles trying to find something that’s right next to them while you frantically call out directions. That’s why I now carry a flashlight with a built-in laser pointer. Oh, I told the wife it was for the dog, but really I couldn’t take the kids’ tunnelvision any longer.
Snakes aren’t the only varmints near lakes, either. There’s skunks, squirrels, foxes, birds, badgers, and a whole host of wildlife, of the thirsty, hungry, rabid and rotting, germ-ridden variety. Since your kids are used to most animals being talking, fuzzy, cute characters on Nickelodeon or in their favorite video games, they might not realize that nature is not a pet store. You need to stay on your toes and keep the kids off nature’s on your way to the fishin’ hole.
Once you reach the shore, your varmint trouble isn’t over. Snakes swim. And there are snapping turtles that can remove little pokey fingers. Go to the right place, and there are gators. In some cases, gators even get released into lakes much farther north than they should be. It may sound like a bad horror movie, and I doubt you’ll encounter a twelve-footer or larger, but keep your eyes open when you go to the water’s edge.
And don’t forget the whole drowning danger. You can’t leave the little ones at the shore while you go back to the van to get the snacks. They could easily fall in and drown. And unlike a pool, lakes are filled with very cruddy water. You might not even see where your little one went under.
Also, never forget there are people at lakes. People are dangerous. They bring their dangerous pets to parks. They leave dangerous garbage, like sharp cans, pointy needles, hooks, and so forth behind. They throw things. They cast their own fishing lines without looking to see if the area is clear. They also drive trucks with boats and can easily back over you and your kids.
Don’t pay attention when you hit the fishin’ hole and you can find yourself or your kids in a heap of trouble. Even if the signs say you’re in a park, you need to respect nature and tread lightly.
Now all of this assumes you’re bank fishing. That’s the best form of kid fishing. The bank isn’t going to tip over or spring a leak. Your kid can fall in the water from the bank, but generally only in one direction. Avoid the boats and all their hazards. Enjoy a far safer bank fishing experience with much quicker access to somewhere to potty.
In Part 3, I’ll explain just what you need to bring with you to make your father-child fishing trip fun.
Image by juliancolton2, flickr.com