- The Washington Times - Sunday, April 26, 2009

If music soothes a savage beast, fishing surely has a similar effect on the young.

Take Lane Jewell, 6, who with his brother, Jake, 11, lives in St. Mary’s County, enjoying life, raucously punishing a huge trampoline their father put in the family yard, running around with their pals during school break time or bicycling over lawns and driveways at home amid shouts of glee and total abandonment.

But take the boys fishing, and a transformation takes place. Lane and Jake turn into a picture of tranquility and concentration.

There are no sudden urges to act like Mexican jumping beans when their eyes are glued to the placid surface of a farm pond and the plastic float that sits atop the water. The boys know that beneath the “bobber” is a piece of monofilament line tied to a small hook that typically and firmly holds a half-inch-long piece of night crawler.

Suddenly, the thumb-tip-sized float quivers a bit, then softly moves a few inches even though there’s not even a hint of a breeze. In the case of the older Jake, the boy will lean forward, intently stare at the bright-red orb and softly reel back a bit of slack line, when it happens. The float goes under, a fish has sampled the juicy worm and Jake sharply lifts the short spinning rod, simultaneously setting the hook into a fat bluegill’s jaw.

The fight is on. All things being equal, when a boy fishes with a 4 1/2-foot spinning outfit, the reel loaded with 4-pound test line, and a well-fed, large sunfish vigorously objects to being reeled in, it is as challenging for the child as a 2- or 3-pound bass might be for an adult who uses much stronger line and a rod and reel capable of bringing in fish four times that size.

Jake flips the sunfish onto the grass and asks, “Can we keep it?” He intends to have fish for supper but also understands that some of the sunfish he latches onto must be returned to the pond after the hook is removed. He has been taught to keep only what he’ll eat at one dinner. Hoggishness is not part of the game; sensible conservation is.

Meanwhile, Lane has not moved an inch. He has flipped his worm into a corner of the pond and watched the water with an eagle eye for maybe 10 minutes or more - never complaining, not a word of disappointment crossing his lips.

But the fish gods are smiling, and they allow a bit of piscatorial thunder to strike.

Lane’s float has disappeared, and there’s no need to set the hook because whatever it is now tries to swim off with the boy’s rod and reel if necessary. But the tough little guy won’t have any of this. He holds the rod up at a sharp angle and frantically reels in the line, attached to a fair-sized crappie. The crappie has other ideas and actually peels off a bit of string from the reel’s pre-set “drag” mechanism, which allows some of the nylon to be stripped from the reel rather than it snapping in two.

Eventually, Lane subdues the black-and-silver speckled fish. “Can I keep it?” he shouts. He’s told that he can, but he’ll have to eat it. “I will,” he answers with a broad smile.

Later that day, after his mother fries a small batch of sunfish and crappie fillets and serves them with vegetables, both boys dig in and thoroughly enjoy the meal, which they caught all by themselves.

Have you thought about taking a child fishing? It’s an experience that stays with both of you for the rest of your lives.

• Look for Gene Mueller’s Outdoors column Sunday and Wednesday and his Fishing Report on Thursday, only in The Washington Times. E-mail: [email protected] Also check out Gene Mueller’s weekend fishing report at washingtontimes.com/sports.

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