Sunday, May 11, 2014

Gone fishing

Jonny and I have gone fishing the last two weekends, and he's really taken a liking to it. He wants to catch a big catfish, but we've got to work out some fundamentals before he takes on a monster fish. It took him almost an hour to tie his first hook. I showed him how to do it a bunch of times as he worked on his hook. And then he got it, putting the end of his line through the loop near the eye of the hook. High fives all around for Jonny's first clinch knot.

I'm proud of Jonny. He stuck to it, even after he got frustrated, and showed a lot of maturity for a boy his age. When it comes to fishing, to truly catch a fish, he must tie his own line and handle all tackle himself, bait, cast, hook, net, and land the fish himself. Each task has a certain learning curve and, because much of fishing deals with sharp things - hooks, knives, fins, teeth - the penalty for failure can be quite high. We've spent a lot of time talking and practicing safety.

Last Sunday, we arrived at Lake Sule in Rochelle, IL, about half an hour before dawn. We had four poles, two closed cast reels for Jonny, and two open cast for me. One pole each was baited with chicken liver dough catfish balls and weighted with split shot, the others worm bait and bobbers. We fished off the dock near the parking lot and didn't get nary a nibble. Neither did a couple old timers fishing nearby on the shore. But Jonny said he had a great time. He's so caught up in the novelty and adventure of the experience, and his enthusiasm is infectious.

Ive been a fisherman since about age 9, but never serious, never treating it more than a passing fancy, a chance to hang out outside, never too sporting about it. Though I've had many great catches and fished many waters, fishing has and will always be a means to an end, whether that be eating fresh panfish or spending a beautiful day in nature. But when I was a little older than Jonny, I spent a lot of time fishing at Pierce Lake in Rock Cut State Park, a bike ride from my Loves Park home. Despite the heavily urbanized environment, there are many lakes and rivers in greater Chicagoland, many of them stocked with game fish. And, of course, there's Lake Michigan. I've never been on a charter trip. That's on the father son to-do list.

Last night at dusk we fished the Kishwaukee River on a roadside pullout off Hwy 64 just west of Sycamore. We each had just one pole. Jonny his treasured Spiderman and me with an open cast. It was a warmer evening and the fish kept us busy. Jonny landed his first fish, a small carp, but the biggest of the five we caught. Jonny also caught a small striped bass. He handled each fish himself. I extracted the hooks this time. I caught a striped bass, catfish, and bullhead. We released them all. They were too small. We'll save the gore of cleaning for another day.

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