Little anglers learn lessons about fishing

Jerry Apps
Jerry Apps' sons, Jeff, right, and Steve try their skills (and patience) at fishing.

My dad loved fishing. He taught my two brothers and me all he knew about the sport. And I have tried to do the same with my three kids. Fishing is another way to teach kids what nature is all about. It ranks right up with gardening as a way to help kids appreciate nature. Fishing can be more exciting than gardening. It also can be more boring, especially when the fish aren’t biting.

When my kids became two years old, I bought each one a little yellow fishing pole. It was about three feet long and had a small reel to take up the line. I also bought each one a big red and white bobber, so they could experience seeing that big bobber dip beneath the surface when a fish took the bait, which was an earthworm that I threaded on the hook.

I remember so well when Jeff who was about two and Steve, about three. We were camping at a campground near Pardeeville, WI. It had a little pond—filled with fish the camp owner had said.

After supper, I walked with the boys down to the pond, found a nice spot for them to sit, threaded worms on their hooks and showed them how to toss the fish line into the pond. All went well. The boys tossed the lines, the bobbers were bobbing on the smooth surface of the pond. We waited for the fish to bite. We waited and waited. Steve concentrated on watching his bobber. A slight breeze caused his bobber to wiggle a little, but it remained above the surface.

Meanwhile, Jeff began to fidget. He got up, tossed his new little fishing pole into the pond, and said, “No fish here.” He marched off to the campsite in a huff. Patience is one of the values taught when fishing. At two, little Jeff had not yet learned that lesson.

THE OLD TIMER SAYS: Fishing is a lot more than catching fish.

Jerry Apps

Jerry Apps, born and raised on a Wisconsin farm, is Professor Emeritus at the University of Wisconsin-Madison and the author of more than 35 books, many of them on rural history and country life. For further information about Jerry's writing and TV work, go to