Bringing Them up Right
by Brad Durick
How I got my boy interested in catfishing
As anglers there are two things that we all must take very seriously. First, we must be conservationists to protect the fish and fisheries so there is clean water and fish to catch for generations to come. Second, we MUST, and I mean MUST, do whatever we can to educate and pass on our knowledge and traditions to the next generation.
It is common to hear and read, “Take a kid fishing,” but this has to be more than dropping them off at the local pond to fend for themselves. It also does not mean take them to the annual kids fishing clinic and call that their fishing outing for the year. No, we must make it part of their lives and upbringing to develop the love and skill that will last a lifetime.
I come from a family of, for lack of a better phrase, non-fishers. I am not blaming anyone, they just didn’t have that upbringing or interest in fishing. I am an odd story in angling as I started much later in life than most. I had to make up time and push harder to learn and grow in angling as opposed to a kid that was brought up fishing. But that’s a story for another time.
My Boy Braden
From the moment I knew my boy was on the way I hoped and prayed that he would love fishing as much as I do. When he was born I wrote in my newspaper column that he was going to be my first mate. My hope was that everything in his angling life would come together and he would be my fishing partner for the rest of my life.
I remember the first time he was in the boat with me. I am pretty sure he was about six months old. I know he went ice fishing just after his third birthday and I know that he caught his first fish the next summer. It was a walleye on a Spiderman pole.
We have done a lot of fishing together since then, but it was a series of two trips over about a week in 2016 that brought it all together for both of us on the catfish front.
Our Catfishing Moment
Braden and I don’t get to catfish together very often during the northern catfish season as my guiding schedule is so brutal that we just don’t get it done. That leaves us with the early part of the season and the end of the season to chase catfish. The good news is that these times are usually the best times to catfish up here.
The year 2016 was an amazing season for big fish and lots of them. As always, about the time school starts the guiding schedule slows down dramatically. I was on an amazing big fish bite and just wanted to go have some fun on my own. I asked Braden if he would join me after school one day and he agreed. Just the two of us, armed with four Rippin Lips Rods and a cooler full of bait, set sights on the river.
We took a very short boat ride to an area that had been good the day before and set up our lines. We talked about school that day and he caught one channel cat that was about ten pounds. After about five minutes of not catching a second fish he asked, “dad, take me to your secret spot.”
I had to think for a minute whether he had really just said that. I replied, “OK, It’s a fairly long boat ride.” We reeled up and made the run. Normally, I would not make that long run for such a short fishing trip. But today it felt right to take the boy on an adventure, especially since he asked me to and was genuinely interested.
We got to the spot, baited up and set the lines. Almost immediately a rod went down. We stuffed the rod down into the Driftmaster Rod Holder and Braden cranked on it until the fish came to the net. Before I netted that fish, another rod went down and I hear, “Dad, I want that one too.” So, I scooped up fish number one and he headed to the other side of the boat for catfish number two of his double.
Shortly after the double, another rod bent over with an extra big and angry catfish on the line. Braden took his time and we landed a channel cat that was just under 20 pounds. While not the biggest catfish I ever saw, it was a truly beautiful fish. We took what ended up being the best catfish photo of 2016 with that fish.
A couple days later I had completed a successful trip and raced to school to pick up Braden with my boat still in tow. When we walked out of the school doors he asked if we were going fishing. It was music to my ears. I said I had not planned on it, but if he wanted to go there was some bait left and we could go.
With the fear of his mother being mad at me for sliming up school clothes we headed back to the landing I had just come from. We launched the boat and took off. This time we stayed closer to the landing as we had to be home for dinner in two hours.
Lines down, big fish on and then another. I hear, “I want them both.” About the same time, I saw a cottonwood tree floating down the river right at us. I did not want to panic my young partner, but knew we had to hurry. I grabbed the second fish and told him to reel faster. We netted the fish, put them on the floor without even unhooking them and I headed for the anchor.
The anchor was stuck so I started to unhook it just as it broke loose. We slipped out of the way of that tree with maybe four or five feet to spare. I moved the boat to safety just a few yards away, tossed the anchor back out and sat down. Just then a little voice asked, “Are we going to unhook these fish and take some pictures?” Oh yeah, we will, I replied. As it turned out Braden’s fish was 23 pounds, tying his personal best from the previous year.
Over the next two hours I would move the boat, set up on a spot, and just lay back and close my eyes. If a fish was on I heard, “FISH ON,” followed by the thump, thump, thump of little feet racing to the back of the boat. We landed a few more great fish that day and still made it home for supper.
We had catfished a lot before that week and since, but I think those two days were the days that put it all together in our minds that we are fishing buddies.
He saw some success and it clicked in his mind how things work and he discovered the pure excitement of a big fish. I think he figured out that his dad was a pretty cool guy that day too. I was convinced that my boy had the bug and knew what to do when we had a fish on and how to handle it, at the ripe old age of six.
It is critical that we take our kids in the outdoors. We must teach them how precious that experience is and the importance of spending time in nature and away from the modern hustle and bustle of life. We must teach them that the outdoors is a gift that must be appreciated and understood. Remember, kids don’t remember their best day watching TV.
Captain Brad Durick is a nationally recognized catfish guide on the Red River of the North, seminar speaker, and author of the books Cracking the Channel Catfish Code and Advanced Catfishing Made Easy. For more information go to www.redrivercatfish.com