I don’t remember my first fish. I have only vague memories of some of my first experiences fishing for sunfish with worms and bobbers. I think I know where I caught it, and I know that my babysitter at the time took me, but I don’t have any pictures, and I don’t have a distinct image of that day in my head.
On the other hand, I will never forget Joe’s first fish. At the end of spring, I went on a camping trip with my Boy Scout troop, and we spent the day fishing on a nearby party boat. Joe is one of the younger boys in my Boy Scout troop, and he had never caught a fish before. Unfortunately, the fishing on the party boat was slow; very few people caught fish, and Joe wasn’t one of them. It was still a fun day on the water, but I didn’t want the trip to end with that disappointment of not catching a fish.
After dinner that night, I went with some of the younger scouts to a lake near where we were camping. We brought some light spinning rods and jigs to try to catch a sunfish or a small bass for their fishing merit badge. We didn’t have much time before it got dark, but there was enough time for Joe to land a small chain pickerel: his first fish!
Joe was thrilled, and I snapped a picture of him grinning ear to ear and holding up his trophy. Then I unhooked it and released it to grow bigger and hopefully bring someone else the same excitement it brought Joe and I.
This was an incredibly rewarding experience for me. Although I have been fishing for long enough that I can’t remember my first fish, that was the first chance I had to share my passion for fishing with someone who had never been introduced to it before. After seeing the smile on Joe’s face, I certainly hope it isn’t the last.
When we think of conservation, we don’t usually think of taking young kids fishing, but it is absolutely essential. Without someone teaching kids how fun fishing is, it is likely that they won’t grow up with the same passion for conserving that resource that many of us share. Not only will they be able to reap the benefits of past conservation successes, but they will also continue this important work into the future.
I have my babysitter to thank for my passion for fishing. Maybe someday, Joe will have me to thank. I am only a teenager myself, so I hope to have many more opportunities like this one in my future now that I know how exciting and rewarding they can be.