This past Summer I was trying to find new things to do keep my 3 year old happy and busy. As we all know happy and busy lead to happy and sleepy, which in turn leads to happy and nappy. I take pride in still being able to get my son to nap because it means I exhausted him, mentally and physically. It also gives me a chance to either catch up on television, errands around the house or on those days that I’m coming off of a shift (As a fulltime firefighter) I like to take a siesta as well.
I often try to think back to my childhood when I’m thinking of new things to experience with my little guy. One of my fondest memories came at a time that wasn’t so fond. When I was 10 years old my parents split up for the 3rd and eventually, final time. Unlike most separations, my mom was the one who left us. My dad was left caring for a 13 year old and a 10 year old. In the beginning he did pretty much anything possible to keep our minds off of the spilt. We went to the movies weekly, go cart riding, mini-putt etc. My favourite experience was when my dad took us fishing. He wasn’t an expert fisherman by any means, but he had the basics down. Rod, tackle box, bait and most importantly patience. We would drive about an hour away and rent a boat for the day. It was so exciting to wake up on a random Tuesday in the middle of the summer to find out my dad was skipping work to take us on an impromptu fishing trip for the day. To be honest, I don’t remember how big or even how many fish we caught. I just remember spending time with him.
In my dad’s tackle box I remember a small block of wood. Written on this piece of wood was the “Fisherman’s Prayer”. I remember memorizing it and repeating it over and over;
Fishy, Fishy bite
Your Mother said you might.
Your Father said he didn’t care so…
Fishy, Fishy bite!
I loved it; it was short, easy to remember and (in my head) increased my chances of catching fish.
Well now that I’m a dad, I decided to try and recreate this type of memory with my son. The difference is that he’s only 3 and can barely sit still for 10 minutes, let alone an afternoon of fishing. Also his mother and I are still very much together, married and in love. This is a bonus because our fishing trip isn’t supposed to be a distraction from real life drama like my memory as a kid.
The first day we went fishing, I had just gotten home from a quite night at the fire hall. Kissed mom goodbye as she caught the train into the city for work and I ate breakfast with my son. Thinking about what adventure we can get ourselves into for the day, I came up with fishing. It was time my son got to experience the thrill of the catch (and release of course).
If there is one thing I know about fishing, it’s that you need to be patient. Well, that’s not a trait my 3 year old subscribes to, so I did the next best thing. I took him to a stocked fishing pond to get his feet wet. First we made a stop at the mall and picked up the necessities, fishing rod (Spiderman of course), tackle box and sunscreen. I’m lucky enough to live only 20 minutes from a fishing pond. Since a small boy, I have often seen this pond on the way to our family camping grounds. It was about time to try it out.
When we arrived we were greeted by a teenager who explained the “rules” to us. It was $10 for me to enter and free for my son. You get free worms, and they have two ponds to choose from. Both were stocked with rainbow trout, one pond was as clear as a swimming pool and I was told that as soon as your line hits the water, you’ll have a fish on it. The other pond was more natural looking and was ideal for someone looking to stay a bit longer. I decided that the natural pond was a good place to start. The other rules were that you had to keep what you caught, there was no releasing allowed, and the cost per fish was $10/lbs. YIKES! The average fish was 2-3 lbs and as much as 8lbs. Needless to say I was looking for the smallest fish in the pond. Well we fished for an hour or so and my son was very excited. He loved looking at the worms, and seeing the odd fish swim close to shore. Well, we weren’t catching anything and he was getting restless so we moved on to the “swimming pool” pond so he could feel what it’s like to have a fish on the line. After dodging some very large fish, he finally landed one. Unfortunately it wasn’t much of a fight because trout just don’t struggle like other fish. It was a bit anticlimactic and when it was all said and done, the fish cost me $45. Expensive, but I think he liked it.
The next time we went fishing I found another stocked pond that had a “Catch-and-release” pond with catfish, bass, sunfish and crappies. It’s was $5 for each of us and we had a lot more fun, we caught about 7 fish that day. Little ones, but perfect for his size, he had a blast bringing them in, and really enjoyed throwing them back. It was a fantastic place for fish, as well as sighting turtles and frogs. We ended up returning to that same place about 4-5 times before the summer ended. I can’t tell you how much I enjoyed taking him fishing. The best part was teaching him the “fisherman’s Prayer” that my dad taught me. He sounds adorable quietly reciting it to himself hoping to catch a fish as he watches his floater in the water.
A few tips to make it a smooth trip if you decide to take your toddler fishing? Bring lots of snacks and sunscreen. Moist wipes to clean the fish and worm guts off his hands before enjoying those snacks. Plus it really helps to bring some toys or other distractions for those slow periods where he doesn’t have the patience waiting for a fish to bite. Have fun with it and leave your frustrations at home. I’m glad I started fishing this young with my little guy. It’s all about keeping traditions going, and creating great memories that he’ll enjoy passing on when he’s a dad.
Keep your head up and your nuts covered.