The more time I spend as a parent the more I realize how much I appreciate my father. Beyond the values of hard work and caring for others that he instilled in me, what I appreciate most is my love of the outdoors that comes from my time spent in a boat with dad. Recent articles and other discussions here on IDO have talked about the topic of less youth getting into fishing these days and my biggest hope is that I am able to do as good a job of passing my passion on to my son as my dad did for me.
Browsing through the pictures and reports online I quickly find myself becoming much more excited to see the pictures of young anglers smiling with their catches, regardless of size or species, than pictures of even the absolute trophies. For me success is becoming less measured in inches or pounds but rather in did my son have a good experience with me today and did I help to pass on my love for fishing to him. At his young age my goal is about making sure our time on the water is always about quality of the experience and that we’re always having fun. Which meant last summer I started leaving my fishing boat in the garage for family weekends and started building new pattern – Pontoon trolling for large pike and muskies. The pike and muskies are perfect for kids because they look cool and bite well during high sun conditions, but why pontoon trolling you ask? Because kids love pontoons!
They also love being involved in whatever is going on so make sure to let them help with setting lines, picking lures, always change baits if your son decides a different color/style looks like it would work better, and have them help drive the boat when things are slow. Even catching cabbage can be a good opportunity to teach them about reeling in a “salad fish.”
In two previous trips last summer poor weather and missed strikes kept us off the board until we finally scored with a 41″ pike (Little Kids, Big Fish), but most important was that everyone had fun and the information that I had learned towards building a successful pattern. I learned where to find the best weedlines, developed a trolling run that allowed me to get back to the dock before my son’s patience ran out, and gained invaluable knowledge that in a lake full of every type of panfish, perch patterned baits were far and away drawing the most interest. I also realized that some of what of what I was doing didn’t exactly translate for targeting a new to me species… I was trolling too slow and spending too much time glued to the weedlines. After more research this year bumped my trolling speed up to 3-4 mph and started making more trolling passes out over the main lake basin looking for midday roaming fish. Not only that but I was also armed with the same secret weapon I employ for shallow water walleye trolling… The bent-lip Rapala Shad Rap. Not being a muskie guy I never hear anyone talking about fishing the Super Shad Raps but every hit I had came on my single hot perch colored Super SSR last summer so this year I came back with more of the same but with more colors.
Joined by my nephew, niece, and almost 3 year old son, Hunter, we headed out for our first troll of the season on Friday afternoon of the 4th of July weekend. It didn’t take long and we connected with my first muskie of the season and the first muskie that any of the kids had ever experienced, a healthy 45″ fish that will be remembered in our household for a long time.
Later that weekend on a solo trip I was also able to connect on a much heavier 48″ piggy but the real successes were the kid’s smiles and a few quick pics I got with my son and “the biggest fish I’ve ever seen daddy!!!”
Thanks for reading and remember with kids it’s all about the fun!