The opening of trout season marks the unofficial beginning of warm weather outdoor adventures -- swimming, canoeing, rafting and, of course, fishing. If there's at least one avid angler in the family, a fishing trip makes a great family activity. Skills, experiences and fish tales are passed from one generation to the next.
Even if you've never fished, or if it's been 20 years since you've wet a line, opportunities abound. The Fish and Boat Commission offers programs statewide to introduce adults and children to fishing.
In Allegheny County, for example, May 4 is Family Fishing Day at Harrison Hills County Park. Learn the basics, from tying knots and baiting hooks to casting and getting fish off a hook. Plus you'll have a chance to actually fish. No license is required and all equipment is provided. The only "catch" is that adults must bring a child, and children must bring an adult. Contact Mandy Smith for more information at 814-443-9841or email@example.com. Pre-registration is required.
May 10 is the new date of the rescheduled statewide Mentored Youth Fishing Day intended to get adults to take a kid fishing on specified program waters including North Park Lake, Canonsburg Lake, lower Twin Lakes and Mammoth Lake. Find details at www.fish.state.pa.us/MentoredYouth.htm.
May 17 there's a Family Fishing Festival at North Park. Again contact Mandy Smith for details. You can also find information about many other special fishing activities at www.fish.state.pa.us.
Introducing the family to fishing is much more than recreation. It gets kids outdoors and plants the seeds that will grow into a conservation ethic. Spring is the perfect time to take sons, daughters, or grandchildren fishing. A farm pond is probably the best place to start. Landing a feisty bluegill can hook a kid on fishing for life.
Give the children in your life a break from smart phones, computer games, and television. Get off the beaten path and talk. Get to know each other. And if the fish aren't biting, that's OK. Catch a crayfish, net some aquatic insects or listen for the machine gun-like rattle of a belted kingfisher. It's more about the shared experience than just catching fish.
It's been more than 20 years, but I can still see the looks of shock, surprise and excitement on my daughters' faces when they caught their first fish. They were so proud. And when the thrill eased, they both asked just one question: "Can we do it again?"
Biologist, author, and broadcaster Scott Shalaway can be heard 8-10 a.m. Saturdays on 1370 WVLY-AM (Wheeling) and online at www.wvly.net. He can be reached at www.drshalaway.com, firstname.lastname@example.org and 2222 Fish Ridge Road, Cameron, WV 26033.