I like it when families with young kids come fishing with us. It brings back the excitement of fishing to see their eyes light up in awe, no matter what size or kind of fish they catch.
The other day we took a family of four out for a half day of fishing. The two kids were aged five and six, and although excited about their upcoming day, it wasn’t too long before they fell asleep. It was an early wake-up call to make the 5:30 a.m. departure. Their heads slowly sank down into their chests and their bodies crumpled until they were both draped over the boat seat cushions like wet noodles. Kids are cool, the way they can sleep in almost any position.
King salmon fishing has been fabulous of late, and we headed north through the placid waters of Olga Straight, towards our fishing grounds. We found the ocean to be calm when we passed through Sinitsin Narrows, which we were happy to see. Flat seas are always the best, when introducing kids to saltwater fishing. Captain EJ set us up on the gravel flats, which is where salmon like to hang out. It makes sense; bait fish like the flats, and salmon are going to be where their food is. We set up the drift and started fishing.
The kids were kind of quiet at first, but I think they were still waking up. I helped cast out their lines, then we set the rods into the holders for them to fish. After a little instruction about watching the line counters and working their bait, they got the hang of it.
We drifted awhile before the first bite, then suddenly we had three fish on at once. The boy who I was watching was reeling up when I saw the tip of his rod begin the light tap of a salmon bite. I told him, “C’mon buddy, REEL on that, you’ve got a fish on!!!” and so he did. He did great, and ended up hooking his first King Salmon. I popped the rod out of the holder in case the fish was going to run, and I helped hold the rod while he reeled and we maneuvered around the boat.
As it turned out, it was an undersized king salmon and we had to release it. He got to see his fish at the surface, and from that point on, he was really into it. He kept his eye on his rod, tried different sides of the boat, kept his bait moving, and asked questions. His mom and sister caught their salmon—a first for each of them. I teased the mom by telling her she had to eat the salmon heart as it was her first salmon. She laughed, but wasn’t buying what I was selling. I didn’t blame her, although we have had people eat their first salmon heart.
The action was steady. With kids, fishing is cool because everything is interesting to them. They caught a couple of quill back rock fish which sparked many questions. I explained how their sharp quills can be harmful, and showed how to handle them safely. They caught a couple of halibut, and they asked lots more questions: “Why are their eyes on the same side of their head? Why is one side dark, and one side light? Why are they so flat?” It was really fun.
After awhile, the boy decided he wanted to catch a halibut, so we got his gear set up right off the bottom. I was busy cleaning the other salmon, and I had taken my eye off of him momentarily. His rod started bending, and he began reeling, excitedly yelling that he had one. I encouraged him, and watched the rod. It struck me that it was probably a small halibut, as the line was mostly up and down and not zinging out on an angle. So he reeled it up, right in the rod holder, and when he got it to the surface, I saw that it was a king salmon! I told him what it was, and the salmon must have heard me because, he started on a run directly underneath the boat. I quickly got the rod out of the holder and told the boy to follow me around as we had to chase his fish. We took it up to the bow, and he began to reel it in, again with me holding the rod, while he worked the handle. When we got it to the surface, we saw it was a keeper. We netted it, and the boy was overjoyed.
That’s why I love this job. You can make someone very happy, just by helping them catch a fish. So bring your family fishing, it’s a great way to spend quality time, and to get your kids interested in the outside world.
Written by Tom, Deckhand ~ Checkmate