- The Washington Times - Sunday, May 7, 2006

A friend whose young son recently reeled in a large rockfish (with a little assistance) told me, “You should have seen his face when we brought the striper aboard and let him cradle it in his arms. His face lit up like a Roman candle. He was so delighted with that fish, he’ll remember it for the rest of his life.”

Such a comment is no exaggeration. I should know.

Even as I grow older — I’m now the proud grandfather of three — I will never forget the very first fish I caught when I was little more than a kindergartner.

At the time I lived in the state of Bavaria, in southern Germany. My father, intent on catching dinner for the family, went fishing in a little stream, the Riedbach, no more than a half-mile from our house.

My brother and I tagged along with Papa and after he baited a hook dangling from a long rod with a bit of gardenworm, he let me hold it. The cork went under within seconds, and I kicked and shouted with glee while trying to swing a well-hooked brown trout up on the grassy bank. My father had to help me, but in the end it was “my” fish and, just like that 2-pound brown trout, I was hooked.

When my daughter was only 5, she would rather go fishing with Mom and Dad than play with Barbie Dolls. To this day, she complains about not having enough time to go fishing. She has three children, and the two youngest pretty much require all her attention.

However, the eldest, our now grown granddaughter, spends every available hour by the banks of a river or lake fishing with her soon-to-be husband. She loves fishing because her grandfather got her started when she was little more than knee high. These days she uses a fine Abu-Garcia spinning reel attached to a graphite Fenwick rod that cost well over $120. Because she enjoys fishing, she figures she might as well use good equipment.

My 8-year-old grandson, Jake, came to me a few days ago and asked, “Poppie, when are we going fishing?”

He’ll go with me just as soon as he has a midweek teachers’ meeting day when he doesn’t have to be in school, and when summer vacation comes he’ll be in my boat, wearing a tethered life vest, and the two of us will catch white perch in the tidal Patuxent or Potomac rivers. Just as soon as his little brother, Lane, gets the OK from his mom and dad, he’ll also be going fishing.

The point simply is this: there’s no better leisure activity for children than to be fishing with mom, dad, grandpa, uncle or friends. So what if the People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals object? Don’t pay any attention to those wackos.

The PETA folks recently sent me a faux comic book cover that blared, “Your Daddy Kills Animals.” It showed a deranged looking man with a fish in one hand and a nasty-looking knife in the other. Under the picture was the question, “Ask your daddy why he’s hooked on killing,” which of course was followed with a PETA Web site address that wants your name so it can solicit funds or sell you calendars with heart-wrenching photos of little puppies.

The children in the Mueller clan will never ask why Daddy is hooked on killing. Daddy showed them how to catch fish, clean them, eat them or carefully remove hooks and let them go, perhaps to be caught another time. They think fishing is as normal as breathing. Not only that, it’s a soothing, relaxing activity, an experience that provides memories and togetherness for family and friends. They feel the same about hunting. In fact, they love to eat dishes made of wild game.

The fishing also does something that PETA members would never suspect. It provides a deep appreciation for nature, clean waters, conservation, and thoughts about a growing America’s future. So won’t you join the family of anglers? You couldn’t choose a more rewarding recreational sport.

Look for Gene Mueller’s Outdoors column every Sunday and Wednesday, and his Fishing Report every Thursday, only in The Washington Times. E-mail: gmueller@washingtontimes.com.

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