- The Washington Times - Sunday, September 3, 2006

BUSHWOOD, Md.

My grandsons recently talked me into taking them fishing.

“You promised to do it before school started,” said Jake, 8, then followed it up with a look that pleaded not to disappoint him. His younger brother, Lane, 4, who’s the size of a 6-year-old, just nodded his head, his lower lip drooping. How can I turn down a drooping lower lip? It’s impossible.

The day arrived amid concerns that it is never easy to take even one child out on the water and here I had two. Thankfully, one of them listens to his grandpa, but the other has a mind of his own.

My daughter, meanwhile, would make sure our little tornado, Lane, was in check. She strapped life preservers on both boys and then supervised the younger one, while I kept an eye on the older boy.

Our mission was to go after the white perch that live in the Wicomico River. We’d use worm baits or artificial lures, such as Mini-Traps or Beetlespins, cocksure that both children would reel in something besides waterlogged sticks and weeds.

While I tried to keep everybody reasonably calm, practically guaranteeing them history-making catches, a long-time fishing acquaintance, Tom Swann, was doing the same.

He, too, had launched a boat to show his grandsons the finer points of casting and hooking the same kind of perch we were after. Swann’s wife, Ann, would keep an anxious eye on her brood, just as my daughter did with her boys.

We had not expected to run into each other on the tidal Wicomico River, no more than two miles from its junction with the Potomac River. It was good to see him and his clan.

Our day began at 6:30 a.m. at the Bushwood public boat ramp, where Lane appeared to be mostly concerned that the snacks, drinks and sandwiches were safely placed into the cooler. He was watching every move his grandpa made to be sure none of mom’s peanut butter and jelly sandwiches were left behind. His brother, Jake, cared more about natural dangers. He wanted to know if there was even a remote chance of sharks being present. I let him know that sharks would not bother us here. He also cast a worrisome eye on a number of small jellyfish that pulsated through the water, expanding and contracting as they moved.

“Can they hurt you?” he asked.

“No, sweetheart, they won’t bother you,” I said, “but there are some in the ocean that can be a big problem.”

I never checked with Tom Swann, but I bet the day’s dealings with his grandsons pretty much went the same way.

Nowadays, my worries don’t center on sharks or dangerous jellyfish, but rather the possibility that teaching a child how to fish is akin to introducing them to soccer. Am I starting them too early, only to see them abandon it later on? Will they take to fishing as enthusiastically as one of them already has to soccer? Could it be that when they grow older they’ll forget all about futbol and switch to golf, then also forget about fishing and pick computer games? The thought alone makes me perspire.

Meanwhile, little Lane reeled in his first white perch. It struck a small inline spinner, but as soon as we deposited it into an aerated livewell and he watched the fish swim about in rectangular confinement, he put down his rod and ate a sandwich. After all, it was the late hour of 7:30 a.m. It was time to eat and wash the sticky stuff down with some kind of libation.

Then came Jake, who is getting pretty good with the casting of lures. He has a light spinning outfit, the reel loaded with 8-pound testline. Jake soon cranked in a perch while Swann’s two charges, Michael, 6, and Nicholas, 8, were doing the very same thing across the little Wicomico feeder creek we were in.

Swann’s grandchildren, in fact, cast their lures as if they’ve been doing it for years. They hooked one white perch after another. My daughter, who fished a little while also guarding our youngest tyke, looked at me as if to say, “How come you don’t know hotspots like Mr. Swann?”

What an ingrate.

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

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