Like all grandparents, I love my grandkids, am proud of them, and thrilled to see them succeed. Besides all of their other wonderful accomplishments and skills, my four grandkids are very good fishers.

In fact, it is fairly common for them to out-fish me whenever we go to the lake or stream. My older grandsons, Owen and Ayden, are skilled with spin-cast, spinning, bait-cast and fly rods, while Addi and Camden are showing great promise with spin-cast rods.

All four kids love the fast-paced action that fishing can provide. I always do a bit of homework or what I call “scout-fishing” in advance to select a spot where I am confident that they will be successful.

They all started the same way with a spin-cast rod and mealworms or night crawlers under a small bobber. That is the stage my younger set of grandkids is at. They catch mostly bluegills and crappies. Between them, they often bring in 10 or more fish in the half hour to an hour that we fish before calling it a good day of fishing and heading off to the playground.

After Addi’s first Green Valley trip, she renamed the bluegills and crappies to reflect characteristics of both fish that she learned while handling them. She refers to bluegills as Pokers because of their sharp fins that are hard to avoid with unpracticed hands. She likes to hold on to crappies, which she calls Lippers because of their larger mouth, and their tendency to go limp when they are grabbed adeptly by the lower lip. She loves how that allows her to unhook the fish while keeping her fingers away from their sharp fins. Of course, younger brother Camden calls them Pokers and Lippers too, and I must admit I have adopted those monikers for them as well.

I bought fishing gloves for both kids to match mine and to provide a bit of protection when they hold a fish. We typically put the fish briefly in a big bucket filled with water that has a large aquarium net attached. The kids have the option of releasing the fish from the bucket with the net, or if they are feeling brave, to release them with their gloved hands.

At this point, the fish-release part of the experience has become a more important part of the trip than I had realized. They have seen my care in releasing these sharped-finned panfish, and noticed that I was especially careful when it came to trout, even though there are no fins to contend with.

The last couple of times that we have fished at Green Valley lake has added a special treat for them. Camden caught his first trout this year, and Addi caught a few soon after that. They love the bigger size, the fight on the line they provide, and the pretty colors of the rainbow trout.

This last trip, Addi caught one trout that we could not revive, so she was very concerned that we would put it to good use. We have eaten trout in the past that we have caught, but I told her that this trout had a different purpose.

I shared I needed a trout to take to my fly fishing classes for kids to learn about trout anatomy. It really helps them lock into the lesson when they can feel the slime that I tell them is an important part of the fish’s defense against disease. They get to gently rub the sharp teeth of a trout so I can explain why you would want to avoid grabbing a trout in the same way that you would grab a crappie. I show them how fragile their gills are to again drive home the point of how to gently hold a fish and not touch the gills. During the anatomy lesson, it becomes very clear to the kids that even the coloration of a trout helps it survive. They notice that the dark dorsal side helps the fish hide from predators above, and that the light coloration on the underside blends better with the sky when a predator, or their prey, might look up from below.

Addi was pleased that her trout would help kids learn more about fish, but she was even more determined to safely release any future catch. With the next two trout that she caught, Addi went into full trout recovery mode. She was able to revive the first trout with several gentle, back-and-forth movements of the net before it swam off. The second trout required a more hands-on effort, and she was up to the task. Addi got down close to the water and gently held the trout in a natural swimming position while moving it carefully to circulate water through the gills. We all got quite a thrill seeing the trout make the final kick out of her hands as it swam off back into the lake.

I love watching my grandkids progress as fishers. It won’t be long before Addi and Camden will be out-fishing me with a fly rod, too.

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