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Fountain of Youth

Family fishing

Fountain of Youth

The sport of fishing has an almost magical ability to keep us all young at heart, especially if you take the kids along with you.

The first yellowfin tuna I ever caught was taken on my inaugural Hudson Canyon trip decades ago. Leaving in the dark, chugging all night to have lines tossed in the water right before first light was an ethereal experience evenly matched by the ensuing mayhem after the fish crashed into the split-tail mullet. My body and mind were still tingling on the ride back to the inlet thinking about all of the experiences I endured that day. That I still can remember so clearly about that trip from eons ago tells a more interesting story.

Like many fishermen I know, they too were fortunate to learn the ropes about fishing from a father or friend who cared enough to share the wealth of an amazing hobby that builds with a passion as relentless as the torque of a 16-cylinder diesel engine. Notwithstanding actually being on the water with a fishing rod in hand, just thinking about fishing can consume countless waking moments, and each one leads to another cast in your mind. I recall one winter day last year shoveling a ridiculous amount of snow from my driveway to get my car out of the garage with one part of my brain thinking, Who needs this nonsense? while the other side chimed in with thoughts like, This snow would be great for icing tuna. Thinking about fishing always reminds you of when it is time to go again. It is a reminder well worth paying attention to.

Some of my most memorable fish, however, were not caught by me but rather by children I have taken fishing on my boat. If you want to relive every fish you have ever caught, watch the reaction of a child when he or she hooks a fish. Their face expresses glee, concern, and determination every microsecond of the fight. Here, size does not matter and oftentimes, the smaller the fish, the more curious and vocal the children become. When my nephew and niece were still in single digits, we would spend summer days on the river crabbing and catching snapper bluefish, and fluke. But a lowly sea robin took top billing one morning when it came aboard grunting and I coaxed my nephew to touch the pectoral wings and barbels under the fish’s mouth with his little fingers. My niece was amazed when a big school of spearing swam past the boat inches below her wide blue eyes. I remember her smile as if it was yesterday. These days when she calls about visiting, she always asks about the boat and are we going to our spot near Treasure Island to fish and crab. 

Today we are frequently reminded via news reports that kids are less interested in fishing and boating than playing sports or other activities that seem to linger all year long. There is a lot of competition for utilizing free time and spending money. This fact has not escaped the observation of marine-industry analysts. But it’s not just children. Many people are welded to their phones, computers, and televisions—to the point that going out on a boat to fish can seem more like an effort than a form of relaxation. While you might not recognize this where boating and fishing is a year-round avocation, other areas are having a hard time attracting new people to these recreational pursuits. Concern deepens as baby boomers age, since this generation is mainly responsible for the current popularity of boat ownership and sportfishing in general. 

The answer to the dilemma is getting kids involved in fishing as early as possible. Recently I was at a 40-boat, two-day tournament with a lay day in the middle of the schedule set aside for a kids’ fishing competition. Although a lot of fish were released during the main event, it was this kids’ dock tournament that really stood out not only for the children but also for the parents. Kids love to fish and they are eager to wet a line and catch whatever will bite. Just be prepared to add a little patience with the bait. Help them out. They will adore the attention and will become your best fishing partner ever. And, the more children we groom to fish, the more stewards we create to promote the sport and conservation. This makes it better for all of us, and for the fish, too. 

Making kids part of your fishing entourage pays off handsomely. Spending time fishing with children is important for their growth and development as well. It provides a fun way to acquire skills and learn problem-solving techniques. Fishing alongside them opens channels to verbal communication that texting does not provide. More than anything else, you will never grow old teaching a child to fish.

This article originally appeared in the November 2015 issue of Power & Motoryacht magazine.