If you've been looking for a positive and inexpensive activity for your children this summer, you might consider recreational fishing.
All it takes is a little time, patience and some relatively inexpensive fishing tackle.
One of the most important aspects of teaching youngsters how to fish is giving them enough to do to keep their attention. In other words, they need action. Just sitting around and enjoying the birds or looking at the water isn't relaxing to a five-year-old -- it's total boredom.
So, you'll need to take them to a place where they can catch one fish after another and patience is not a prerequisite.
One recent event aimed at hooking kids on fishing was the Governor's Youth Fishing Derby, which attracted more than 4,500 youngsters from around the state. The theme of the June 8 event was "Hooked on Fishing --Not on Drugs."
More than 125 youngsters and their parents flockedto the shores of Friends Park in Forest Hill for the one-day event.
"We want to introduce kids to fishing and let them know how important it is to save our natural resources," said Howard King, of the Department of Natural Resources' Fisheries Division. "We're hoping the parents will also get the message," said King. "Fishing is a participant sport that everyone can get involved with."
If you missed out on the Governor's Youth Fishing Derby, you can still get your child involved in recreational fishing.
All a parent or mentor need do istake the child to the nearest farm pond. When you're 5 years old, bluegills and blue marlin both are considered to be the largest fish inthe world.
Granted, the chance of finding a marlin in the local farm pond is equal to being struck by lightning on a clear spring day.However, most of the tiny lakes are loaded with fat bluegills, and these small members of the sunfish family will hit anything that moves.
Although you may be an experienced angler, there's a good chanceyour child doesn't have the skills or coordination to handle ultra-lite spinning gear or a fly rod.
The best fishing outfit for youngsters is an inexpensive Zebco spincast rod-and-reel combination. They're available at local tackle shops for about $15. For another $5 you can purchase all the hooks, floats and sinkers you'll need for the entire summer.
For bait, a dozen fat night crawlers will supply a youngster for a day of fishing.
Because Harford County has only a small number of public ponds, most fishing activity takes place at ponds on private farms. Nearly every major farm in the county has at least one pond.
They range in size from one-half acre to five acres. Most are loaded with bluegills, sunfish and largemouth bass. These small impoundments are not open to the public, so you'll need to obtain permission from the landowner before going fishing.
Obtaining permission is usually easy when you have a smiling 5-year-old standing next to you. Who could turn down a child with a little fishing rod in their hand?
Assure the farmer that you'll obey all his rules, closethe pasture gates, not trample his newly planted crops and keep the place clean.
And ask if they would like to have a part of your catch. If the answer is yes, offer to clean the fish. By doing this you'll be sure of getting an invitation to return. In addition, you'll besetting an excellent example for your child.
The easiest part about taking a child fishing is catching the fish. When you're fishing afarm pond with live bait, the bluegill population will quickly swarmto your offering. This is especially true if the bait is a fat, lively night crawler.
The rig for catching bluegills is easy to assemble. Tie a No. 6 hook to the end of your line and attach a small floatapproximately 12 to 18 inches above the hook.
To be safe, mash down the hook's barb with a pair or pliers. If you or your youngster were to inadvertently get hooked, a flattened barb is more easily removed.
Break the worm into two or three parts and let the youngster thread the bait on the hook. Spend the next five to 10 minutes teaching him how to cast and showing him how the equipment works.
Often during the instruction, they'll inadvertently catch a couple of fish. When this happens, you can teach them how to set the hook, operate the reel, land the fish, remove the hook and, finally, release their catch.
You'll be amazed how fast youngsters develop their fishing skills.
In fact, it's not unusual to have them surpass the abilitiesof their instructor after a few short weeks of tutoring.
By the end of the summer your child should be another fan of the nation's No.1 participation sport -- recreational fishing.
Locally, it'scatfish that are still providing the fishing action. You'll find good concentrations of catfish at the Bush, Gunpowder, Susquehanna, Dundee, North East and Seneca Rivers. The catties go for bottom-fished clam snouts, bloodworms, night crawlers and chunks of peeler crab.
Conowingo Lake fishermen are scoring well on largemouths by casting deep-diving crankbaits in the coves situated along the Harford County shoreline. The bass average 1 to 2 pounds. However, a few in the five-pound category were caught and released during the past few weeks.
If you're in the mood to travel out of the county for some good fishing, large numbers of 3- to 4-pound bluefish are migrating up the Chesapeake Bay from Virginia. These medium-sized choppers will replace those 12- to 15-pounders that were with us earlier in the season.
For now, the best bluefish action is in southern Maryland. The deep water near Solomons and Point Lookout is where trollers and plug casters enjoy limit catches nearly every day.