No More Sweat, Blood, and Tears – Youth Fishing Can Actually be Simple, Convenient and Comfortable

July 21, 2020 at 1:57 pm

By Fisheries Biologist Wes Ashe

In early May, I decided it was time to take my toddler son on a remote fishing trip. Greyson was a relatively proficient caster, earthworms no longer freaked him out, and he was big for his age. I was certain he was ready for the Maine outdoors. Plus, I already had my kayak stashed alongside a Heritage brook trout pond that only required a milelong roundtrip hike. What could possibly go wrong?

The weather was ideal – 63° with light winds. There was hardly a cloud in the sky. With Greyson in his car seat and me piloting our trusty RAV4, we were packed and on the road by 8:15 a.m. Our supplies were more numerous than I had anticipated. Beyond the typical fishing supplies, we also had some additional amenities to make things as comfy as possible – e.g. bug nets, 3 bottles of sunscreen, food and water to last a fortnight, a PAW Patrol backpack, youth binoculars that barely magnified, a full roll of 3-ply toilet paper, a flashlight, 2 padded seats, and 6 superhero figurines. Keep in mind, this trip was just for the morning hours.

Within 2.5-miles of the house, Greyson asked “are we getting close yet?”. By the time we reached our destination an hour later, he had asked the question 42-times. But I was excited to introduce my son to my secluded fishing hole, so the constant grilling was almost comical.

When we reached our destination and exited the vehicle, we were immediately inundated with blackflies and mosquitos. I was used to it. My son screamed like he was being attacked by a flock of pterodactyls flown by wet Gremlins. Once marinated in bug spray and sporting his green bug net, Greyson was ready for the downhill trek to the pond. I thought he was ready. I thought I was ready.

Grayson sporting his bug net

Just a few paces beyond the trailhead, Greyson had already handed over the two items he was responsible for carrying – his Batman figurine and 2 bobbers. That meant I was loaded to the brim with gear. I could barely walk, let alone hold his hand as we traversed the steep hill. We both slipped several times along the descent, and by the time we reached the pond I was a sweaty mess and his knee was bloodied after a hard hit on a slippery boulder. Our father-son fishing adventure was quickly becoming more than we’d bargained for.

Grayson ready to fish!

Besides a couple dozen resident spiders, the kayak was in decent shape following a winter in the elements. After an emotional battle to convince my son that his life preserver was necessary, we boarded the vessel, pushed off, and started trolling. Greyson was thrilled to finally get his line in the water. He was also a little too ambitious and let out the entirety of his spool – gifting his line, swivel, and Rapala to Mother Nature. Not being one to readily share anything, this was more than a little upsetting to my little boy.

We managed just one small trout on our paddle around the perimeter of this 30-acre water before we decided to call it. Greyson was ready to get back to his bug-free car seat for his PB&J, a clean Band-Aid, and a nap. I was as ready as ever to replay the exhausting role of pack animal on our trip back up to the vehicle’s elevation.

A brook trout

Despite the many challenges of my son’s first remote fishing trip, he was super excited to tell his mom and sister of the day’s events. Somehow, Greyson forgot about all his frustrations and only spoke of the cool experiences. His memories will only be of the beaver that splashed its tail, the salamander that was the size of a small dragon, and the ‘large’ trout he muscled to the boat. For him, it was the perfect start to a long and fruitful fishing career. That’s all that matters.

Grayson smiling in the kayak

Luckily, you don’t have to wrestle man-sized mosquitos or hike through miles of thorny puckerbrush to fish with the youths in your life. The Maine Department of Inland Fisheries & Widlife has made it easy by putting together a bunch of materials to make fishing with kids as simple and enjoyable as possible. Check out these tips for comfortably taking them along. There are also over four dozen youth waters across the state. All of these are stocked with a high density of trout in the spring and/or fall, offer easy access and casting areas, and provide a relaxed environment where kids and complimentary license holders are the only anglers wetting a line. Take a peek and pinpoint a water close to home!

As always, if you have any questions, don’t hesitate to contact a regional fisheries biologist. We want to hear from you!