My fish catching streak with my younger set of grandkids is now broken. Addi, 6, and Camden, 3, have always caught fish with me. The fishing trips have usually been pretty short to match their attention spans for fishing, but it isn’t uncommon for them to each pull in five to 10 fish in about a half hour. They are never very big fish, but the bluegills and crappies always feel like giants to them.
I always have two spin-cast rods set up for them baited with mealworms or earthworms, and I have scouted where I plan to take them a day or so before they arrive, to be sure I know where they will have the greatest success.
The most recent outing was quite different. My younger son and his wife bought a new RV, and this was to be the first camping trip for the family in the new vehicle. The kids got new “Moana” and “Spider-Man” fishing rods to prepare for the camping trip, and immediately started practicing casts in their front yard.
Camden, in particular, loved the fish-shaped casting plug that came with the rod, and spent more time getting his casting technique down. From his perspective, anything that landed in front of him on the grass was a good cast, and he also had his fair share that went impressive distances, just like a pro.
The family found a camping spot at Sinkhole Campground at Willow Springs Lake, and after having some fun around camp, we headed to the lake. It is crowded on the weekend at both Willow Springs and Woods Canyon lakes, so we had to walk quite a way to find an open spot along the lakeshore.
I had not done my usual scouting of our fishing destination prior to the trip, and the fish were nowhere to be found. I was less interested in trout than I was in the typical hoards of green sunfish in the three to five-inch range that are always hungry, and the normally numerous crayfish for the kids to catch with their nets and traps.
Both green sunfish and crayfish like rocky outcroppings and sunken logs that they can hide under. With green sunfish, these hiding places are an excellent ambush point for the fish to dart out and grab a bug, or as we hoped, a mealworm, before taking it back to their hiding place. Unfortunately, the area that was open to us was not prime green sunfish or crayfish water.
Addi caught an inch long green sunfish in her net almost immediately, but that turned out to be the only green sunfish we saw all afternoon. The kids also caught a couple of crayfish in their nets, but nothing came to their crayfish traps.
I was feeling bad that this trip was going to be a terrible disappointment for the kids. As it turned out, I didn’t need to worry. They shifted quickly to other activities that I would have never thought of. There was wet sand play that included digging and building, and also some throwing of clumps of sand into the lake. They searched the forest for pretty rocks, pine cones and leaves. Addi did some watercolor painting with Grandma, while Camden played with rocks and sticks and munched on snacks.
Their folks had bought them life jackets for a future excursion in their rowboat, but both kids were thrilled to have an excuse to wear this safety gear as they walked, holding hands with their parents along the edge of the lake.
Since the fish weren’t biting, I put the practice casting plug back on Camden’s rod and he had fun casting into a real lake instead of onto the grass at home. Again, he felt great success with anything that hit the water in front of him and got some long casts well out into the lake that really made him especially proud every now and again.
I realized that neither one of them had thrown a rock into the lake. We threw a small log in the water near shore and it became the target for a barrage of rocks. I am confident that the next trip to Willow Springs Lake will certainly include rock throwing after the fishing is done.
I learn something new every time I go fishing. It is often the fish that are my teachers on those no-catch days, but this time it was certainly my grandkids. I know that I have never had more fun NOT catching fish than I did with my grandkids.