HALLOWING POINT, Md. - When I was 14 and it was summer vacation time, only two things occupied my somewhat impaired thought process. The first was the angelic face of a girl named Anna Maria who lived a few houses down from ours; the second was to go fishing.
That was it: Anna Maria and fishing.
A few weeks ago, after I saw a news report that mentioned how children nowadays spend more time indoors doing the PlayStation thing or watching the boob tube rather than being outside, it worried me. My concern grew ever more when I heard that sport fishing among children has declined 22 percent because adults were simply too busy to take the youngsters to the water.
That’s when I made up my mind that somewhere, somehow, a kid would wet a line with me. My grandsons already are on my must-go-fishing-with-Poppie list, but others also would be included.
That’s how Andrew Carlson, 14, got his wish to catch fish. I have no idea if there’s someone like Anna Maria in his thoughts, and it doesn’t matter. But Drew, as he likes to be called, was anxious to improve on previous unproductive outings, so I asked his parents if he could spend a little time in a boat with me.
The teenager had never really tied into bunches of fish, and I promised him all that would change on a day that threatened to deliver 93 degree temperatures. (It’s the fish numbers that will get them hooked. Take youngsters fishing without their ever getting a nibble, and they’ll switch to other recreational endeavors pretty fast.)
Drew helped me launch my boat from the Patuxent River’s Hallowing Point ramp. After I parked my truck and trailer, we ran downstream, past early-hour crabbers who were setting their trot-lines. Along the way, the boy was probably more than a little apprehensive because I’d mentioned to him that we wouldn’t use bait.
“Only artificial lures will do for us, pal,” I said.
The look of doubt soon disappeared when I tied a small spinnerbait to 8-pound testline on one of my spinning outfits and handed it to him. Drew already knew how to cast. He proved as much when he zipped the lure toward a partially submerged tree inside a large river cove, began to retrieve line and almost instantly said, “I’ve got something.”
Just like that.
Drew caught his first white perch of the day. It was followed by a second, a third, a fourth, and so on. In fact, after the two of us had a wonderful time catching and releasing perch, keeping only enough for a family dinner, Drew’s reel suddenly sang out. Something much bigger than a garden variety 9- or 10-inch perch had gotten hold of his spinnerbait.
The fish stripped line from the reel at will, but the kid began to win the battle, with me anxiously coaching him. Alas, it was to no avail. It turned out to be a fine striped bass of perhaps five pounds, but just before we could slip a net under it, it made one final attempt to break free. The rockfish turned, dived, and the lure popped free.
Drew was disappointed, yet when he got his turn at the wheel of the boat as we changed locations, he smiled broadly. We had fish reposing on ice in the cooler and now he was safely running up the river, a flotation vest tightly fastened around his body.
This was the life.
Now if I could only introduce him to Anna Maria. But no, that wouldn’t be good. She lives 3,000 miles from here, has been married for 42 years, raised teenagers of her own, and the last I saw of her she looked to weigh 300 pounds.
Perhaps Drew would be better off just fishing for white perch.
Look for Gene Mueller’s Outdoors column every Sunday and Wednesday, and his Fishing Report every Thursday, only in The Washington Times. E-mail: email@example.com.