"If I fished only to capture fish, my fishing trips would have ended long ago." Zane Grey
Ahh - the beautiful days of summer. Everyday is sunny with a good chance of rain. The water in the Gulf and Intracoastal waterway are bathtub warm and the bait shrimp are so darn small, we are lucky to catch a pinfish with them. Spanish Mackerel are in full swing, large schools of Tarpon are putting on a show rolling in the waves of the Gulf, Snook (knowing that they are not in season) show up everywhere, and the dreaded Catfish is lurking on the bottom ready to take any bait they see just to make you mad. Yup, feels like July.
Another indicator of summer is the fact that schools are out all over the country and kids are flocking to the island to try their hand at fishing, some for the first time, accompanied by parents and grandparents. If you go to any local pier, you'll hear "Hey Grandpa, look what I caught. What is it?"
My three and a half year old granddaughter Maddison (Maddy as she likes to be called) came down to visit us from Minnesota this last week. I can't even express how it felt to see her standing at the airport with her mom, smile on her face, with her arms outstretched for a hug, and the big shout of "Grandpa Jim!" After loading their luggage into the van we headed toward our boat on the island. The last thing I was thinking about was fishing until Maddy said "Grandpa Jim, are you going to take us fishing?" I asked if she wanted to catch a big fish or a small fish and she answered "I don't want to catch a fish, I want to catch a mermaid." Now I was in deep trouble. I scrambled to think of a way out of this, but to no avail. I showed her the mermaid on the Bait House door thinking this should placate her but she just said "That's what I want to catch." Needless to say, Maddy did not catch a mermaid, but she did catch her very first fish. After a lot of yelling that she had a bite, she reeled in a small Mangrove Snapper. When her mom explained that we had to put the fish back because it was just a baby, she resigned to let the fish go and bid it farewell with a wave and several "Bye Fishies." Moments like that make a grandparent feel proud enough to buy their granddaughter a mermaid doll at the gift shop. See how we are!
Despite the help from her grandpa, three and a half year old Maddison (Maddy) from Shakopee, Minnesota, still managed to catch her first fish ever. She caught and released this small Mangrove Snapper.
Polls and research show that fishing is not as popular to this generation as it was to ours. Maybe that's our fault for not exposing the next generation of anglers to the wonders and experiences of fishing. Make a great memory for your family by taking the kids fishing. Don't forget the camera, you'll want to show their children the smiles on their parent's faces when they caught the big one.
For those who love Snook fishing, they are abundant, roaming the shallow surf of the Gulf early in the morning. They can be caught easily free-lining Greenback minnows which are also plentiful just feet off of the shore. If you're a shark fan, try the Intracoastal waterway just at dusk, using a bottom rig and squid.
Bring the whole family and stop by the Bait House for all of your bait and tackle. We carry kid's rods and reels as well as all the snacks and drinks that you'll need for your day on the water. If you have a favorite picture of your child's big catch, we will give it glory on our board. I can be emailed at Jim2988@msn.com and as always, Good Luck Out There!
Jim can be found daily at the Bait House - Clearwater Municipal Marina, phone 446-8134
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