It's getting to be that time of year again - a time when night a Styrofoam container filled with a dozen or two of freshly gathered night crawlers may very well be nestled carefully in the refrigerator door, complete with a bit of dirt on the outside of the small white container - proof the youngsters in the household are getting involved in the fun of the basics of fishing.
Kids and fishing are timeless aspects of life in America offering as much appeal today as ever, which is why a free opportunity open to all Ohioans wanting to try their hand at throwing out a line and a hook to see what they can land from the depths of any of Ohio's public waters including Lake Erie and the Ohio River can be enjoyed May 5 and 6.
Jimmy Houston gives a lesson on a unique flash mob lure.
The open invitation to residents of Ohio is being extended through the Ohio Department of Natural Resources and has been a popular part of the department's annual schedule of events since 1993.
Recently Ohio Valley residents were treated to an opportunity to meet and talk with international professional fishing greats Jimmy Houston and Roland Martin during a special fishing promotional event at Cabela's at the Highlands.
Two of the most accomplished professionals in the sport each is renowned for their respective passion for fishing whether with highly advanced tackle and other specialized gear and boats, or while working with grandchildren who are only just beginning to get introduced to the fun of a family-style fishing experience and who want little more than an basic pole, a fat night crawler on a hook, and some basic encouragement and praise for their efforts from their favorite fishing buddy: a grandfather.
While both have been heavily involved in the very technical and hugely competitive research and development end of the fishing in recent decades, there is no mistaking the joy they get when asked about the idea of families enjoying an afternoon of fishing.
Houston's family life is centered in Oklahoma, and Martin's in Florida, where each is provided a unique environment, but they share a common love of introducing kids to fun-filled fishing experiences with the help of the basics.
The classic cane pole is still a favorite of fishermen everywhere, but for those families who may not have family heirloom fishing rods and boxes of prized tackle tucked safely away, there is a simple and fun solution that often covers nearly everything a first time angler could need: pre-packaged starter kits.
"The cost of getting your grandkids or your kids started fishing is something that can easily be very affordable, and it doesn't have to involve anything complicated," offered Martin. "It doesn't have to get expensive, and you don't have to do a whole lot of detailed planning and things like that. The point is to make the experience fun for everyone, but especially the kids."
Both men made it a point to involve both girls and boys in fishing outings.
A key component to a good day of fishing with younger family members and friends is remembering the purpose of the activity and focusing on the fishing experience for the children, which can easily mean the first few outings should be dedicated to the needs and efforts of the youngsters.
"You have to have patience and you need to offer encouragement, if you can do that from the start kids will grow up enjoying going fishing with you," offered Houston.
Both men agreed the smiles generated by a youngster experiencing catching their first fish is a sight to be treasured for a lifetime.
When asked what they consider to be the most common favorite fishing memory from family outings, the consensus was clear: catching that first fish.
What is a favorite fish to pursue for youngsters to catch and then have the adults prepare them as part of a family meal: pan fish such as Crappie or Bluegill.
Tips for successful first fishing experiences from The Ohio Department of Natural Resources:
1. Have fun. Seeing your child enjoy reeling in their first fish is rewarding. (Take pictures!)
2. Target areas with a high likelihood of success. Most kids are satisfied catching lots of smaller fish such as bluegills rather than catching fewer, bigger fish such as bass. Catching a few fish on the first few outings will peak children's interest and make them look forward to the next trip.
3. Use live bait to increase the chance of catching a fish. (Also bait is more interesting for children.)
4. Pick a place that is easy to get to, comfortable, and safe.
5. Bring snacks, sunscreen, insect repellent and first aid basics. This will make your trip comfortable for everyone.
6. Provide them with simple tackle in working order. Nothing can be more discouraging to a child than complicated equipment or equipment that doesn't work. Consider giving the child their own fishing outfit. This gesture is practical because short rods are easier for kids to handle.
7. Above all else, have patience.
You will be unsnagging lines, baiting hooks, and landing fish for them often.
On your fishing trips with youngsters, they will get dirty, fall down or even get a little wet. By taking time to introduce children to fishing, you may end up with a fishing buddy for life.
Loccisano can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org