Tidelines – July 6, 2017
If you like the idea of taking a kid fishing, and you especially like the idea of taking a kid fishing for his/her first time, then you’re going to love the recent efforts of Intracoastal Angler and the head boat Vonda Kay.
Dave Gardner, the owner/captain of Vonda Kay, normally leaves his head boat docked on Mondays, but on Monday, June 26, he loaded the boat up with 23 kids (and 17 parents) to do a special trip—Intracoastal Angler’s Kids Day on the Vonda Kay.
This inaugural event bears the title sponsorship of Intracoastal Angler, as owner Philip David was quick to support the concept of introducing kids in the area to their first taste of ocean bottom fishing. And of the 23 kids that headed 10+ miles out of Masonboro Inlet, only three had ever been that far out of the inlet with the purpose of catching fish for the family dinner table.
Using the half day trip on the Vonda Kay to introduce kids to fishing was born out of a trip my two older sons (now ages 10 and 11) and I took last summer. Kids on a head boat trip don’t need to have the ability to cast—they just drop bait to the bottom, and typically the bottom fishing action is steady and holds the attention of young anglers who may become bored quickly if asked to be patient for a fish to strike.
However, those with kids know that sometimes more isn’t better, so at 8:30 am when all 23 kids walked down the dock to begin boarding, none of us—captain, mates, parents—knew exactly how the trip was going to turn out.
Just as soon as we passed the Masonboro rocks and headed southeast into a northeast wind and seas, the first timers young and old quickly learned about the wet side of the boat.
The conversations jumped around from what type of sharks we might catch, to fidget spinners, to whether or not fish lose weight, to the reason behind why people believe bananas on a boat are bad luck.
In the midst of sunscreen and snacks, Dave pulled back on the throttle letting us know that the run out had ended and we were close to the first drop. He moved the boat around a little, gunned it in reverse a couple of times to take a second look at his electronics, dropped the anchor, and then blew the horn one time announcing that it was time to put some bait in the water.
What happened next? Lines tangling? Hooks in eyes and sinkers swinging into heads? Birds’ nests on the conventional reels? Parents struggling to help the kids get a feel for keeping their baits resting on the bottom? Confusion over whether to tell the kids to bring your line up to check the bait versus letting the bait stay down in hopes of catching a fish? Wondering why the person next to you is catching fish and you’re not, even though you’re doing the same exact thing with the same exact bait?
Yes to all of it, except the hooks in eyes and sinkers swinging into heads, and in spite of some moments of chaos and confusion, the kids (and parents) had a wonderful time.
Lines tangling? Sure. A couple of times. But that happens sometimes even when you have only four or five people fishing on a much smaller boat. Birds’ nests? I’m guilty myself, but it never takes too long to untangle. Keeping baits on the bottom? Maybe a little at first, but all the kids were great at it within 15-20 minutes.
Confusion over whether or not to let your bait sit or reel it up to check? That’s part of bottom fishing whether you’re young or old, novice or experienced.
Why is the person next to you catching fish and you’re not? That’s often the mental battle of any type of fishing—one of life’s questions that doesn’t have an answer.
Ultimately, the kids had fun and did great. In addition to spending quality time with a parent, away from electronics and out on the open water, they went home proud and with an assortment of sea bass, grunts, and rudderfish.
The parents? They did almost as good as the kids at creating memories and catching fish, but in looking in their eyes as they were leaving the dock, I think the hope that a fishing trip would tire out the kids for a good night’s sleep may have worked better on the adults.
Taking kids fishing is fun and rewarding, as well many other things, but nobody said it was easy.
Thank you, Intracoastal Angler and Vonda Kay—it truly was fun and rewarding…and many other things.