Kids needn’t ever have fished before, nor must they hail from a family where fishing reigns supreme, in order to love fishing. There’s a thrill that comes with catching your first fish, or your 100th. I recently spent an entire day working at a “trout pond” and had ample opportunity to witness first-hand the joy and excitement that kids experience when they catch a fish.
This wasn’t even a real pond, but rather an above ground pool lined with a black tarp and fresh water filtration system. This trout pond is part of a kids activity area at a Stocker Farms, a working suburban farm that is transformed into a Fall festival each October. Because of this, it’s not a permanent structure and only houses trout for a few weekends each year. It was my job to oversee a group of high school wrestlers who were in charge of managing the trout pond. Our tasks included stringing up new fishing line and tying on new hooks as needed, helping youngsters place salmon eggs on their hooks, and generally maintaining order. Oh, and to help them catch fish, too. This year the farm mandated a catch and release policy, so barbless hooks were used. Kids were allowed to catch 2 trout before reluctantly giving up their fishing poles to the next eager young angler.
Of all the activities on the farm the trout pond was, hands-down, the most popular. It was a cool, damp start to the morning but as the day wore on the sun shone through and the afternoon turned pleasant and warm. Being a Sunday, the crowds were considerably lighter than they had been the day before (according to reports), but it was still very busy. At the peak there were as many as 25-30 poles in the water: poles consisted of a 4 foot bamboo stick with 4 feet of fishing line attached by electrical tape. I doubt these kids appreciated fishing with bamboo rods so early in their angling careers 😉
As with most artificial trout ponds, the fish were eager and willing to inhale the salmon eggs, and countless hatchery-raised trout were caught, much to the delight of everyone in attendance. Most fish were 10-12 inches, all in good shape with bright silvery sides and pink cheeks. They jumped and thrashed when hooked, putting on a good show for everyone. There were a couple really big fish – honest 24 inchers – that cruised the depths of the pond and ignored all but the rarest of offerings. I’m fairly certain these fish were placed in the pond just to create added intrigue and excitement, and while a couple kids did manage to hook up with a couple of these bruisers, the fish easily dispatched of the rudimentary tackle and were never landed. I must admit, I wished I’d had a real fishing rod handy…
I was fortunate to be able to help a lot of little kids catch their first fish on this day. The later in the day, the more the fish became tight-lipped. Some kids really had to work at it to catch a single fish, but all were very determined. I spent 15 minutes with one little boy of about 5. He hardly uttered a word, but I could tell he badly wanted a trout on the end of his line. His perseverance paid off, and it was obvious that he was rather pleased with himself for having caught a fish. The boy’s dad was just as excited as he was.
The pure, unbridled joy and excitement these kids experienced was a priceless confirmation that kids love fishing. Even if they never fish again, or never become an avid angler, these youngsters were thrilled with their catches of the day. And as the fish were cradled while the hooks were removed, the kids were fascinated by the colors and spots and slippery texture of the trout. Many had never seen a one before. Nearly every kid was also very concerned about the well-being of the fish and wanted reassurance that after the trout were released that they would be OK. In some cases I had to stretch the true and assure them that their fish would be just fine.
What I can wholeheartedly confirm after spending the day at the trout pond is that fishing is not just something that appeals to a select group of children or adults. While there are certainly those who don’t have an interest in fishing, from what I observed the overwhelming majority of kids, and their parents, were absolutely enthralled by the chance to catch a fish, observe it up close, and after releasing it, to do it again. Imagine if the setting were a beautiful lake or mountain stream, with wildlife and birds all around…the thrill of fishing would be amplified. On this particular Sunday, I couldn’t have imagined a better place to be than right where I was.
Note to prospective animation studio producers: Audience members for Olive’s future film needn’t have a particularly keen interest in fishing any more than those who have enjoyed Pixar’s Cars are NASCAR aficionados. Kids like fishing. They like fish. Olive the Woolly Bugger is for everyone. Period.