Family Bonding at Tennessee’s Free Fishing Day 2013
I can still remember the first time my granddaddy carried me in his Plymouth along a dirt road that tracked through cotton fields down to his fishing pond.
That morning we’d carefully turned over the wooden boards that covered the places where my grandmother put her coffee grounds and kitchen scraps to feed fishing worms we called wigglers.
With our coffee cans full of rich black dirt and a couple of dozen wigglers, we loaded up our cane poles and set out to catch supper. As we walked the last few feet, a bullfrog jumped with a sudden loud croak that broke the stillness of a pond otherwise as smooth as glass. The pond was heavily wooded on all sides. Only the dam allowed unencumbered walking and fishing.
He patiently showed me how to thread a wiggler on the hook and set my bobber, then dropped my line a few feet out from the dam and handed me the pole.
He pointed out the expanding rings on the surface of the water that meant a fish had risen to the surface to feed on an insect as it skimmed the surface of the pond. He explained how my bobber would go under and I would feel a tug when a fish took a big bite of my wiggling worm. And then I should tug hard on my cane pole and raise its tip to the fluffy white clouds floating across the brilliantly blue Alabama sky.
The tug came. I pulled on that pole with all my might. I felt like the king of the universe when I saw the bluegill on the other end of my line. I was three years old.
Of the many memories I have of happy moments spent with him, that first day fishing is still one of the most special to me. He not only taught me how to fish that day, he taught me a love of being outdoors that has sustained me in so many more ways than simply catching supper.
Decades later, I was fortunate enough to take my granddaughter, Ashley, down the hill to the ponds behind our house to catch her first bluegill – she was three years old. In almost no time, she was casting her Mickey Mouse spincast combo like a true angler.
On Saturday, June 8, you can make it a very special day for for the youngsters in your life by celebrating Free Fishing Day in Tennessee. All ages may fish free without a license in Tennessee’s public waters. Better still, if you are 15 years old or younger, you may fish free the entire week, beginning June 8 and continuing through June 14.
All across our state, state employees and volunteers will be on hand for special activities that are planned to introduce kids to the thrill of a day on the water catching fish on Tennessee’s public waters, Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency owned and operated lakes and Tennessee’s State Parks.
From Mud Island River Park in Memphis and Reelfoot National Wildlife Refuge to Mousetail Landing State Park and my friend Steve McCadams conducts Casting for a Cure Kids Fishing Rodeo in McKenzie; there’s a whole lot of kid-friendly and family fishing going on in West Tennessee.
Same in Middle Tennessee – with events for the big day from Clarkesville to Lawrenceburg with catfish stocked at fishing holes in between like Lake Sevier in Nashville’s Shelby Park, Memorial Park in Hendersonville, Van Lake in Fairview, Buckner Park in Dickson, Whippoorwill Lake at Williamsport WMA; the list goes on and on with more good fishing spots than you can shake a pole at.
In East TN events are scheduled from Knoxville to Mountain City with several waters having been stocked with trout.
Most of the kid-focused activities are scheduled for mornings. Some have age guidelines but for many locations as long as a kid can hold a fishing pole (even with a bit of help) they can fish.
So take a kid fishing June 8-14! For details and contact information visit to www.tnwildlife.org.
At what age did you first go fishing? Share your story in the comments!