They say to write the things you know.
For me, that list is pretty short: snook, tarpon, ducks, and being a father and husband. Those are the only things I really know anything about – and I’m no expert on any of these, either. But I always give it my best shot, which is my inspiration for this article.
As parents, one of our greatest honors is sharing the boat with our kids. As a guide, and a dad, and a son, I’ve been on both sides of these points . . . Read on, and make sure you’re doing the do’s and avoiding the don’ts!
Do: Take your kids fishing every time you get the chance.
Don’t: Expect greatness
I was very fortunate to grow up in an outdoors-loving family; some of my fondest memories of growing up involve stringers of panfish, playing retriever on a dove field, or spitting in a campfire.
In this age of social media, fans and likes and friends, don’t get caught up in the results of your trip. Don’t expect 40″ snook to happen. Don’t expect tarpon hookups. Don’t expect tailing redfish. Expect silly jokes and jumping off the poling platform and asking to drive the boat. Don’t expect a trophy to come within 200 yards of your boat, since, if your kids are at all like mine, it will sound roughly like Ben Hill Griffin Stadium in the 4th quarter of a tie game.
Do: Engage – answer their every question
Don’t: Get frustrated explaining how to set a hook for the 43rd time
Kids are naturally inquisitive. This is your chance to engage them in something without a Bluetooth option or login requirements . . . Go into the trip realizing that this is an opportunity to just be in proximity to these little humans . . . Who cares if you lose a fish, or miss a shot . . . At the end of the day they’re going to take away that you spent time with them, listened to them, talked to them, laughed with them, and, if they’re lucky, drank YooHoo’s with them.
Do: Hoot and holler when something amazing happens
Don’t: Yell at them!
When my son caught his first redfish, I can’t describe the euphoria that waved through the boat. There were high fives. Everyone had to get a picture. There where shouts and hugs and it was, basically, a winning shot at the end of Game 7. He may never fish again, but, when he’s 35 years old, he will remember catching that redfish. It was an awesome moment, and it was to be celebrated.
Do: Teach them
Don’t: Talk down to them
My kids would rather discuss quantum physics more than they want to know the scientific name of a redfish. They would rather talk about homework than the reasoning behind your knot selection. But, that doesn’t mean I can’t slip some of these lessons in here and there . . . “Here that bird – that’s a belted Kingfisher” . . . “We’re edging around the flat because the wind will blow us back across it with no noise” . . . “There’s a roseate spoonbill – know why they’re pink?” . . . At the same time, I’ve tried “knot tying class” and failed miserably . . . Teach, but don’t lecture.
Do: Have fun
Don’t: Not have fun?
Oftentimes, our trips are more about the snacks we’ve crammed into every corner of the boat than they are the keepers we’ve crammed into the livewell. I have a penchant for being terrible at predicting the weather, ending up with us in a few less than desirable rain showers; this is brought up to me at least every day by my kids. They’ll remember the laughs and the taco stand and the stingrays and the sharks way more than they’ll remember the trout . . .
That’s all I’ve got. Your kids come with an expiration date – believe, me, I’m looking at a junior in high school . . . I know she’ll always come fish and hunt with dad, but the opportunities will need to be more selected, more nuanced as she develops a life of her own . . . Enjoy what you have, while you have it . . .
What do’s and don’ts did I miss? What lessons have you learned, fishing with your kids?