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From the Pen of Carter P. Smith

I don’t know who was more excited by it all, son or Dad. Probably Dad, if truth be told, but judging by the collective whoops, there was little doubt we were both having a grand old time. 

The big occasion was a little bass. It was my son Ryland’s first. Looking at his smile, which arguably was about as big as the fish, you would have thought he had just reeled in the new state record largemouth.

Candidly, I didn’t know if there was going to be much fishing for us on the fishing trip. We had gone down with some friends to a little spring-fed lake on the west prong of the Nueces to try our hand. But, as is customary with young boys, splashing around in the water and skipping rocks simply proved too enticing. 

Our friends, recognizing that the skipping of rock after rock across the water wasn’t going to help their fishing, quickly rigged up and eased off to parts up and down river. But what the heck, I thought. Maybe when I started casting, I’d get the little bushwhacker’s attention and get him focused on fish and not rocks. Wishful thinking, perhaps, for a father trying to manage his not-quite 3-year-old boy, but worth a try, I thought.

Sure enough, the sight of a plastic lizard being flung into the water was pretty appealing, and pretty soon, that rod and reel found their way into his little hands, albeit with mine wrapped around his. I think it was the third or fourth cast when the bass struck. Ryland’s eyes were as big as saucers as that little fish fought and pulled, and at least twice I thought it was going to rip the bent-over rod right out of his hands. 

After a brief tussle, we landed the fish on the riverbank, all of a pound perhaps, with son and Dad crying in unison, “We caught a fish. We caught a fish!”  After the obligatory picture taking, we released it right back “into the deep,” exactly where Ryland instructed me to place it.

To hear and see Ryland tell it now, that fish was longer than the tape measure. Yep, I think he’ll make a fisherman.

As we approach Father’s Day, I am reminded that fathers fishing with their kids and kids fishing with their fathers is about as good as it gets. That certainly is a perspective shared by my old friend Will Nelson, who recounts a story in this magazine about his perfect day with his dad fishing Texas’ upper coast. As Will aptly reflects, time with Dad out fishing means a whole lot of things to a young boy, most important of them all is simply time outdoors with Dad.

At the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department, we know that one of the most important things we can do is help get families out and about together fishing from a pier, off a jetty, around a pond, in the surf, on a lake, in a boat or within a park.  Recently we joined forces with Johnny Morris and Bass Pro Shops and the Recreational Boating and Fishing Foundation to launch a new initiative called the George H.W. Bush Vamos a Pescar program. The program, named after the nation’s 41st president (an avid angler himself), is designed to attract Hispanic families in the Houston area into the sport of fishing and encourage them to make it a lifelong activity for moms and dads and their kids.

It is one of many programs at TPWD — from Free Fishing in State Parks to Neighborhood Fishin’ to Junior Anglers — focused on recruiting and retaining the next generation of anglers and stewards of our aquatic resources. This Father’s Day, I hope that all the dads out there will reflect upon the times their fathers took them fishing and schedule time to do the same with their kids. As both Will Nelson and I can readily attest, it may be one of the best Father’s Day gifts you can give or get.

Thanks for caring about our wild things and wild places. They need you now more than ever.

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