Like Minnows to Water

By Spider Rybaak

A couple more students.
You hear old folks talking a lot nowadays about how kids don’t have a handle on the real world.
“They’re so into texting they’re forgetting how to look straight ahead and their fingers and thumbs are mutating, curling and forming calluses on their tips!” claims cousin Staash.

While you couldn’t be faulted for thinking he’s exaggerating, he does have a point: the digital world has made life convenient; so easy, in fact, the wonderful virtual world that electronics brings into our living rooms and backyards can make stepping out into a landscape shrouded in iffy weather and uncooperative wildlife seem risky, or even a terrible waste of time.
Granted, interacting with digital images is the most efficient way known to science for pumping surges of excitement through kids, without them ever getting their hands dirty. But there’s more to life than the sterile audio/visual stimulation found in the digital universe. Indeed, nature whips countless sensations into every second of the day: a breeze’s gentle caress; the cacophony of boisterous waterfowl; the quiet splash of a turtle diving off a log; frogs croaking and jumping for cover; the scolding of a startled blue heron; the pull of a fish struggling to free itself of a hook…
What’s more, these thrills are free and constantly playing along the banks of the streams and lakes watering Oswego County’s great big back yard. And the best way to launch children–adults and senior citizens, for that matter–into a future steeped in the wonders of the natural world is to take them fishing.
It’s not all that hard to do. All ya need is a rod and reel combo, some bait and a kid–anyone’s’ will do; provided you get the parents’ permission, of course. There’s plenty of safe spots around to fish, like the parks lining both sides of the river in the city of Oswego; the locks at Fulton and Phoenix; above and below the dam in Caughdenoy; the municipal dock on the north bank in Brewerton; the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation’s Fishing Access Site on CR 37, below the north end of the I-81 bridge; Cleveland Docks on NY 49; Fulton’s Lake Neahtahwanta…
If you don’t know much about angling, don’t worry about it. Kids take to fishing like minnows to water, and if the fish ain’t hittin’, the kids are sure to have fun watching nature bustling all around them.
However, it’s always nice to catch something. In fact, landing a first fish, regardless of size or make (carp, perch, sunfish, bullhead, to mention a few) is sure to etch itself deeply into the person’s memories for life, and might even hook them hopelessly to a lifelong pastime.
With that in mind, me and Mike McGrath, owner of McGrath & Associates Carp Angling Services, have begun conducting free monthly fishing classes this year. Primarily designed for kids, we provide everything from instructions to loaner equipment–and we’ll teach their parents, too.

Our last one was held at Fulton’s Lake Neahtahwanta last month. McGrath, one of America’s pre-eminent carp experts, held 10 children and their guardians captive for two hours, explaining and demonstrating carp subjects ranging from habitat preferences and mixing chum (a recipe of grains, syrups Marukyu baits and other delights used to draw the fish in close) to the knots and terminal tackle they’d need to successfully fish for the species.
After his course in theory, McGrath led the kids to a spot on the lake, cast out a couple lines and promptly caught a 10 pound carp. The students and their parents were mesmerized by the man’s expertise in fishing for this monstrous species, a popular game fish in Asia and Europe.
Meanwhile, I was on the beach handing out free Berkley PowerBaits, including Atomic Teasers, Power Honey Worms, Ripple Shads, Atomic Mites and Wigglers, and Johnson Beetle Spins to each student, and loaning Shakespeare Classic rod and reel combos to kids who didn’t have their own fishing equipment.
Worms were also available, but half-way through the session, so many kids (95 percent) were catching everything from bluegills and pumpkinseeds to white and yellow perch on the PowerBaits, everyone started using them and the worms were spared.
Our next class is this Saturday, August 18, at Lake Neahtahwanta’s Bullhead Point (where the gazebo stands on the pier), from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. To get there, head west on NY 3 in Fulton and follow it west to the edge of town.
For more info, contact me at [email protected] or McGrath at [email protected]
A couple of students.
Fishing class…fishing.
McGrath teaching how to mix bait.
Big fish…Wide eyes…and McGrath explaining it