This last week I had the opportunity to watch my son Peter teach a seminar to high-school students titled “The Science of Fishing.” In his talk Peter talked about the importance of understanding the scientific method and designing fishing tackle. Sounds pretty complicated when you first think about it, but in reality, it is the part of fishing I love the most. When you boil it down, all Peter was talking about is how we as a family learn together. The best way I can think of to describe what I am talking about is to share some stories that we as a family have lived over the last 18 years and some that I can’t tell you the conclusion to because we are still learning together.
One of the most feared events in many elementary school parents’ year is the science fair. With my son Dan it meant another reason to go fishing. For those of you that have been at angling for a number of years, I am willing to bet that you may have some opinions that you are pretty set in. I have one friend who likes to say that, “walleye will bite any color as long as it is chartreuse.” Well…Dan was watching a show talking about how you needed to have red hooks to catch walleye. He looked at me and asked “Dad how do they know that?” I talked to him about how people try different things and stick with the things that work. The next week he came home with his science fair paper work and said, “I want to figure out if walleye like red.” So we spent the next month figuring out how to color a minnow so they could still swim in an aquarium. What we learned is that every available coloring options in all the catalogs wouldn’t kill a minnow, but did paralyze them. So we started test everything we could think of to color a minnow. For starters, we learned all sorts of ways to color minnows that will, for lack of better words, not keep you in the good graces of the wife. Let’s just say it’s not a good ideal to try food coloring on a white counter with flopping minnows. The outcome of this science fair project was a lot of fun and is fishing info that we use to this day. Turns out, that Sharpie markers are the best way to color a minnow. Dan put a green, yellow, blue, red and a minnow with no color into the tank and the walleye ate an equal number of each of the colored minnows first and second…and the plain minnow third. Today we carry Sharpies in our boat to color everything from minnows to spinners.
On the grosser side of learning together we have always looked at what is in the stomach of the fish we clean. For the most part, it was just status quo, but, every once in awhile, you find something that makes you scratch your head. We cleaned pike one day after fishing at our favorite Christmas day lake and found some perch in the bellies of the pike. Now this isn’t uncommon except for the size of the perch. Out of two limits of pike, the smallest perch was nine inches long and the biggest pike was six pounds. On another ice trip, we were cleaning walleyes and found that some of the ‘eyes had frogs in their stomachs and some only had fatheads and perch. We couldn’t figure it out so we picked up an under water camera and started taking note of what we caught. The first thing that surprised me is to see frogs swimming around on the bottom. I was always taught that they are in the mud hibernating all winter. But there they were swimming around ready to become a walleye meal. One day the boys decided to see how many fish we caught on one-minnow rigs vs a two-minnow rig. We set up two buckets to keep track of the fish caught on each of the set ups. At the end of the night it seemed pretty equal and not a big deal. But for whatever reason, we kept the fish separate until we cleaned fish when we got home. To our surprise all the fish that were caught on the rigs with one minnow had perch and fathead minnows in their bellies. All the fish caught on the two-minnow rigs were full of frogs and had no minnows in them.
In the last couple of years, a tackle company has given us some lures to product test for them. When we asked how they worked, the answer was “see what you come up with.” At first it seemed a little annoying but as we started fishing with them we realized how much fun it was to figure out how to fish this new lure. Come to find out, we were pioneering new ways to fish the lure that even the company had never even thought of. None would be possible without learning together in a fun and exciting way.
Simple experiments like these are easy to do and make fishing fun. I know that as a life long angler I have learned more from learning with my kids than I ever would have on my own. The added benefits are even better. Learning the outdoors together helps you and your kids communicate better. It helps put life into perspective and helps us as parents better understand how our kids learn which, in-turn, helps us be a better advocate for them when needed. Not to mention fishing is way funner than any video game or social media site when done together. I challenge you to find some fun opportunities to learn together. The relationship you build with your young anglers will be life long and worth every minute.
In next month’s edition of “Raising an Angler”, I am going to cover “Building a Tackle Box” how put together the perfect tackle box for your young anglers.
Original Published in Midwest Outdoors November 2018
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