There’s No App for This!

There’s No App for This!
I was fortunate to be able to experience the outdoors from a very early age. I started sitting in deer blinds with my dad around age four. Having a dad, uncles and grandpas to take me hunting and fishing was a blessing. There were no wrapped go-fast boats or GPSs. We wouldn't have been able to afford them anyway. The closest we had to cell phones was tin cans and string. Even if cell phones existed we'd have likely dropped them overboard or lost them chasing rabbits with our pellet rifles. My well-rounded exposure to hunting and fishing started a fire that still burns forty years later and I pray the childish curiosity and desire to live and mesh with Mother Nature will remain forever.

I'll never forget how excited I was, riding with dad up to Pine Plaza Sporting Goods in Dickinson to buy a brand new Ambassador 5000C to fit my old Fenwick medium-action rod. The best part about going to Mike Carlisle's sporting goods store was listening to all the stories. He used to run a monthly big trout contest and A.C. Becker Jr. would post the results in his Galveston Daily News outdoors column. I recently found a newspaper article from January 1985 and the names of the all of the 1984 monthly winners were listed. It included some that I had the pleasure of fishing with as a teenager. I still remember catching my first trout on a MirrOlure with my uncle, BB Hillman. He would fish nearly every morning before work and I was lucky to go with him occasionally. The man truly had saltwater running through his veins as did his good friend, Gut Gutierrez. What I learned from them and my dad caused me to grow gills at a very early age.

Not all boys and girls have the luxury of experiencing the salt on a daily basis, but as parents we must take time from busy schedules to introduce our kiddos to fishing. In today's crazy world it remains one of the few activities that are truly pure. Done properly, it teaches responsibility, conservation and clear thinking. Family bonding while having tons of fun is a bonus! So how do we get our new-age youngsters to put down their smart phones and pick up a rod and reel?

It starts with mom and dad. Scheduling a trip with a guide can be a good way to get started. Find one that is good with kids and is a good teacher. For those who choose to venture out on their own there are plenty of options that do not require a fishing guide. Live shrimp free-lined or under a popping cork around the jetties is almost guaranteed to bend rods. There are countless oyster reefs and structures throughout bay systems on every fishing map. Local marinas or bait camps should be more than happy to share information on where to put your kids on some fish.

Depending on age, live bait may be the best choice. However, I take quite a few young boys and girls who do just fine using artificials. A lot of it depends on the time of year. With the summer months approaching there isn't a better time to get them interested in fishing. May and June offer some of the most opportune times to catch trout and redfish. Brown shrimp are making their move to the Gulf and there's nothing more exciting than getting youngsters on voracious schools of trout or redfish under birds. Undersized fish are usually not a concern if they're getting hook-ups every other cast.

Mixing in a little proper handling technique is encouraged. Pinching down barbs on jig heads helps prevent damaging trout that are to be returned to the water. This also makes for easier and faster hook removal. Instructing them to wet their hands before taking an undersized trout off the hook is good practice as is not letting them flop around on the floor of the boat (I'm talking about the fish, not the kids).

Avoiding a "kill 'em all" mentality is paramount. Just because a limit of something wasn't caught doesn't mean the trip was not a success. And, killing a big trout just because it's the biggest trout they've ever caught is the exact opposite of doing the right thing. There is a reason why fewer nine and ten pound trout are caught nowadays (at least in Galveston Bay). I'm no tree-hugger but I believe in sustainability as well as giving others the opportunity to catch that 7-pound trout when she's eight or nine pounds. Gluttony and ego propagate selfishness and waste, which is part of what's wrong with our world today. Trust me; your little fishing buddy will take great pride in letting that big momma trout swim free. I've seen it 100% of the time. Setting a good example by radiating awareness and appreciation for the resource goes a long way.

On-the-water etiquette is also important. Blazing through the middle of a reef where others are drifting or burning a shoreline occupied by waders qualifies as poor etiquette and may give the youngsters on the boat the idea that it is OK to do the same when they're old enough to become boat owners. It sounds like common sense, but I see it almost every day.

Safety is an obvious one. All kids twelve years and younger must wear a PFD when the boat is underway. Information about personal flotation devices and other safety requirements are available at Wearing your kill switch is a great idea too!

Having good equipment will help insure a more successful trip. A good spinning rig can be purchased for a reasonable price these days. Shimano offers a broad line that make casting and fighting fish a cinch. The Sienna is a good one to start them out with for around thirty bucks. The Sonora and Sedona are both very good choices as well for roughly twenty dollars more. The 2500 series is small enough to handle yet still holds an adequate amount of FINS WindTamer 20-pound braid ( Make sure to spool the first 15 yards or so with a good quality 12 pound monofilament backing before finishing it off with braid. I use a uni-knot to tie the backing to the spool then a uni-to-uni for connecting the mono with the braid. Waterloo makes two very reasonably priced spinning rods that are durable yet sensitive. The Phantom and Salinity models are both great choices and very affordable (

Teaching young fishermen how to catch fish on artificials is fun and rewarding. Quite a few folks have the perception that convincing a trout to eat something that is not squirming around on a hook requires masterful skill and finesse. Of course, there are certain times of the year when a specific twitch or dart of a jig will do the trick when nothing else will. But, we're talking about summertime when trout are more concentrated in schools and their metabolism is higher. For all intents and purposes, if they can cast they can catch. If they can't cast then teach them. There are countless varieties of baits on the market that do not require jigging or twitching. My favorite is Salt Water Assassin's Sea Shad. When using a straight retrieve, the paddle-tail creates vibration that is more than enough to trick trout, reds, flounder and sand trout on most summer days. If the bites are coming from high in the water column then an eighth ounce jig head coupled with a medium to fast straight retrieve will work. Use a heavier lead head and/or a slower retrieve when fish are deeper.

Hands-on learning creates a sense of pride and accomplishment, hones skills and builds confidence. Doing everything for them is doing them a disservice and not giving them enough credit. Most young fishermen can become astute anglers over a short period of time. The growing process is fun to watch and extremely gratifying. By sharing our passion for fishing with our youth we may not be able to change the world, but we could change theirs. Last time I checked, there's no app for that!