Can you recall the first fish you ever caught? I have memories of lots of catches I’ve made during my life, but I cannot remember back to the very first fish that I ever landed.
An old family album contains images of me standing on the bank of a Midwestern pond at age 2 and hoisting what appears to be a just-caught bluegill, but there is no notation as to whether that catch was my very first ever fishing success and I have no memory of that day. Those pond-side photos were taken 60 years ago.
I do have some vague childhood memories of fishing from a dock and catching what I believe were crappie, but I don’t remember when or where that occurred.
I was extremely lucky to have been exposed to fishing and to other outdoor pursuits at a very young age, and even more lucky to have been able to keep fishing for another 60 years since (and counting). I am sure that love for the outdoors has shaped me as a person and has helped me find my way in life.
I’ve been lucky in another way too: I have been able to share in the first-ever catches for many other people, including quite a few youngsters. It’s really cool when a child scores their first fish.
I think the youngest kids are the most fun, because you never know how they’ll react. Sometimes they shriek with excitement, drop the rod and run around in circles. Sometimes it’s a solemn, wondrous moment when their eyes get big and they’re not at all sure what to think of the odd creature flopping at the end of their line.
Some first-time youngsters are fearless and want to grab hold of that fish and give it a big hug. Others are afraid to get anywhere near a fish and need to be persuaded to barely touch even the softest tip of the tail.
It was a big day for me when I got to share first-ever catches with two young people at a recent family gathering. Four-year-old Nasir had been fishing several times before in both fresh and in salt water, but had never been able to actually land a fish. Now he’s a veteran angler, having landed three tilapia and a bluegill in the course of half an hour.
Collin is younger at just two years of age, possibly the same age at which I caught my first fish. And we share something else too: He’s my godson. That’s right: I am a godfather, with no apologies to Marlon Brando or Al Pacino.
Collin launched his fishing career with a spunky bluegill, but then he took it to another level when he landed a chunky bass that weighed at least 3 pounds. On a bit of worm suspended under a bobber, of course.
So two more young men have joined the ranks of fishing enthusiasts. I hope they get as much joy from the sport during their lives as I’ve found in mine.
Capt. Ralph Allen runs the King Fisher Fleet of sightseeing and fishing charter boats located at Fishermen’s Village in Punta Gorda. He is an award-winning outdoor writer and photographer, and is a past president of the Florida Outdoor Writers Association. Contact him at 941-639-2628 or Captain@KingFisherFleet.com.